Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Marihuana and the Problem of Marihuana - Perceived Threats

US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Table of Contents
I. Marihuana and the Problem of Marihuana
Origins of the Marihuana Problem
The Need for Perspective
Formulating Marihuana Policy
The Report
II. Marihuana Use and Its Effects
The Marihuana User
Profiles of Users
Becoming a Marihuana User
Becoming a Multidrug User
Effects of Marihuana on the User
Effects Related to Pattern Use
Immediate Drug Effects
ShortTerm Effects
Long Term Effects
Very Long Term Effects
III. Social Impact of Marihuana Use
IV. Social Response to Marihuana Use
V. Marihuana and Social Policy
Drugs in a Free Society
A Social Control Policy for Marihuana
Implementing the Discouragement Policy
A Final Comment
Ancillary Recommendations
Legal and Law Enforcement Recommendations
Medical Recommendations
Other Recommendations
Letter of Transmittal
Members and Staff
History of Marihuana Use: Medical and Intoxicant
II. Biological Effects of Marihuana
Botanical and Chemical Considerations
Factors Influencing Psychopharmacological Effect
Acute Effects of Marihuana (Delta 9 THC)
Effects of Short-Term or Subacute Use
Effects of Long-Term Cannabis Use
Investigations of Very Heavy Very Long-Term Cannabis Users
III. Marihuana and Public Safety
Marihuana and Crime
Marihuana and Driving
Marihuana - Public Health and Welfare
Assessment of Perceived Risks
Preventive Public Health Concerns
Marihuana and the Dominant Social Order
The World of Youth
Why Society Feels Threatened
The Changing Social Scene
Problems in Assessing the Effects of Marihuana
Marihuana and Violence
Marihuana and (Non-Violent) Crime
Summary and Conclusions: Marihuana and Crime
Marihuana and Driving
History of Marihuana Legislation
History of Alcohol Prohibition
History of Tobacco Regulation
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The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

I -- marihuana and the problem of marihuana


Although marihuana is taken by most users for curiosity or pleasure, the non-using public still feels seriously affected by use of the drug. Several decades ago it was popularly asserted that the drug brought about a large variety of social and individual ills, including crime and insanity. As a result it was prohibited by federal law in 1937. The marihuana explosion of the mid-sixties occurred within the context of 30 years of instilled fear. Although based much more on fantasy than on proven fact, the marihuana "evils" took root in the public mind, and now continue to color the public reaction to the marihuana phenomenon. Even beyond the violation of law, the widespread use of marihuana, is seen as a threat to society in other ways. And the threats grow proportionately as the controversy swells.

It has been astutely observed that any statement frequently repeated in public assumes the status of fact. With so many people continually arguing about marihuana, the public has understandably become alarmed and confused.

On the basis of the National Survey, we have tried to identify the ways in which the public feels threatened by marihuana use. Essentially these threats fall into three general categories: threats to the public safety, threats to the public health, and threats to the dominant social order.

In terms of public safety, the concern is with the relationship between marihuana and aggressive behavior, crime and juvenile delinquency. Threats to the public health usually refer initially to the impact of marihuana on the user. Lethality, psychosis, addiction potential and effects of chronic long-term use, are major concerns. Additionally, the fear exists that marihuana leads to the use of more dangerous drugs, especially LSD and heroin.

The threat which marihuana use is thought to present to the dominant social order is a major undercurrent of the marihuana problem. Use of the drug is linked with idleness, lack of motivation, hedonism and sexual promiscuity. Many see the drug as fostering a counterculture which conflicts with basic moral precepts as well as with the operating functions of our society. The "dropping out" or rejection of the established value system is viewed with alarm. Marihuana becomes more than a drug; it becomes a symbol of the rejection of cherished values.

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