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Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents

National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Chapter III

Social Impact of marihuana use


Over the years, there have been several hypotheses about the relationship between marihuana and antisocial conduct. The earliest view was that marihuana causes or leads to the commission of aggressive and violent criminal acts such as murder, rape and assault. These acts are committed, it has been argued, because marihuana allegedly produces a relaxation of ordinary inhibitions, a weakening of impulse control and a concomitant increase in aggressive tendencies while the user is under its influence.

Marihuana's alleged criminogenic role is not always limited to violent or aggressive behavior. Some commentators also postulate that marihuana leads to or causes non-violent forms of criminal or delinquent conduct, ranging from sexual promiscuity to grand larceny. Underlying this second causal hypothesis are the assumptions that marihuana frequently impairs judgment, distorts reality and diminishes, at least temporarily, the user's sense of personal and social responsibility. Regular or heavy use over an extended period of time is felt to interfere, perhaps irreversibly, with the orderly development of psychosocial and moral maturity.

As indicated above, however, a growing uncertainty prevails about ,the existence of a causal link between marihuana use and antisocial conduct. In fact, recent surveys, including several sponsored by the Commission, suggest that large segments of the professional public, particularly the law enforcement and criminal justice communities, are no longer willing to assert a, cause-effect relationship but observe, instead, the existence of a statistical association.


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