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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents

The Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Chapter IV

social response to marihuana use


Law enforcement authorities, given available and prospective resources, cannot possibly enforce the existing marihuana laws fully. The best they can do is keel) marihuana use contained and out of sight. In addition, many officials within the criminal justice system are reluctant to enforce the marihuana laws, being either uncommitted to the usefulness of this particular law or opposed to the law itself. The net result is for the legal system to leave much of the responsibility for social control to other social institutions such as family, schools, churches, and the medical profession. Since these other institutions themselves have relied heavily on the legal system for control, caution and confusion now dominate the social response to marihuana use.

The diminishing severity of the law enforcement response may not have occurred if the other institutions of society had continued to regard the marihuana user as a criminal. However, many of these institutions have come to view the marihuana user primarily in social or medical terms, and to recommend a form of social control in accord with their respective self-interests or orientations. In many cases, the ,attitudes of these other institutions mirror that of the criminal justice system: uncertainty about the proper role of formal legal control.


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