Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Marijuana -- Factors Influencing Psychopharmacological Effect - Pattern of Use

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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Factors Influencing Psychopharmacological Effect


The drug effect of marihuana can only be realistically discussed within the context of who the user is, how long he has used, how much and how frequently he uses and what is the social context of the use. In general, for virtually any drug the heavier the use pattern, that is the longer the duration, the more frequently the use and the larger the quantity used on each occasion, the greater the risk for either direct or indirect damage.

Tolerance development is only one of a variety of occurrences which are related to the repetitive use of marihuana. Any discussion of drug effect must take into account the time period over which the drug is used (duration of use). This is necessary in order to detect cumulative effects or more subtle gradually-occurring changes. Of course, the issue of causality is quite complex because of the multitude of factors other than marihuana use that have a direct or indirect effect on the individual over a period of years.

For the purposes of this report, immediate or acute effects will refer to those drug effects which occur during the drug intoxication or shortly following it. Short-term or sub-acute will arbitrarily refer to periods of less than two years; long-term, from two to 10 years; and very long term (or chronic), greater than 10 years.

Frequency of use, will arbitrarily be designated in the following manner: experimental use refers to use of marihuana at least one time but not more than once a month; intermittent use refers to use more than once a month but not more than 10 times a month (several times a week) ; moderate use refers to use of the drug more than 10 times a month but not more than once a day; heavy use designates use more than once, daily and very heart use refers to use many times a day, usually with potent preparations (high THC content), producing almost continual intoxication so that the smoker's brain is rarely drug free.

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