Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Social Impact of Marihuana Use - Confusion and Fact

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
Previous Page Next Page

National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Chapter III

Social Impact of marihuana use

Confusion and Fact

One of the primary sources of confusion surrounding the use of marihuana and other psychoactive drugs is the ambiguity of the term "drug abuse." In many quarters the excessive use of any drug is considered drug abuse, regardless of the effect of the drug on the individual or his behavior. In order to clarify this issue the Commission defines psychoactive drug abuse as follows:

Drug abuse is the use of psychoactive drugs in a way likely to induce mental dysfunction and disordered behavior.

It should be emphasized that demonstrable pathology of organ systems, including the brain, is not a necessary characteristic of psychoactive drug abuse. There are numerous non-psychoactive drugs which can induce extensive organ pathology but do not modify behavior; such drugs leave their imprint primarily on the individual, not on society. The Commission believes that many of the perplexing issues relating to psychoactive drugs, including marihuana, can be clarified if drug abuse refers only to the impact of drug-induced behavior on society.

Three types of such drug-induced behavior are considered unacceptable in most organized societies: (1) aggressiveness leading to violence; (2) loss of psychomotor control; (3) mental or physical disorder leading to social and economic incapacity or dependency.

This is not to say that society is unconcerned about the harmful effects of psychoactive drugs on the individual, or that such effects do not merit the attention of public health officials. Cigarette smoking, although affecting primarily the individual, is surely a matter of public health concern. We believe, however, that the term drug abuse, with its attendant societal disapprobation, should be reserved for drug taking which has a more direct effect on society through disordered behavior.

Beyond the confusion surrounding the term drug abuse, a rational evaluation of the public health impact of marihuana use is also inhibited by extensive misinformation about the drug. Recently, a great deal of research has increased significantly our knowledge about marihuana. Further research data are necessary before ;a conclusive statement about marihuana and public health can be made. However, enough is known today to discuss some of the public perceptions in detail. And sufficient data are presently available to allow for rational decision-making.


Previous Page Next Page