Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Origins of the Marihuana Problem

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

Origins of the Marihuana Problem

Marihuana has been used as an intoxicant in various parts of the world for centuries and in this country for 75 years. Yet use of the drug has been regarded as a problem of major proportions for less than a decade. We will not find the reasons for contemporary social concern in pharmacology texts or previous governmental reports, for we are dealing with two separate realities: a drug with certain pharmacologic properties and determinable, although variable, effects on man; and a pattern of human behavior, individual and group, which has, as a behavior, created fear, anger, confusion, and uncertainty among a large segment of the contemporary American public. The marihuana behavior pattern is the source of the marihuana controversy.

The most apparent feature of the behavior is that it is against the law. But inconsistency between behavior and the legal norm is not sufficient, in itself, to create a social problem. Marihuana, has been an illegal substance for several decades; and the widespread violation of laws against gambling and adultery have not excited the public to the same extent as has marihuana-smoking in recent years.

At the same time, we suspect that illegality may play an important role in problem definition where drugs are concerned. Alcohol is of proven danger to individual and societal health and the public is well aware of its dangers, yet use of this drug has not been accorded the same problem status. Marihuana's illegality may have been a necessary condition for the marihuana problem, but the increased violation of the legal proscription does not by itself explain the phenomenon.

The Commission believes that three interrelated factors have fostered the definition of marihuana as a major national problem. First, the illegal behavior is highly visible to all segments of our society. Second, use of the drug is perceived to threaten the health and morality not only of the individual but of the society itself. Third, and most important, the drug has evolved in the late sixties and early seventies, as a symbol of wider social conflicts and public issues.

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