Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Marihuana and Violence

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 Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana and Violence

(The evidence to be presented here applies not only to aggression and to violence but to marihuana's relationship to crime in general, and is therefore equally relevant to a later section on marihuana and non-violent crime. The effects of marihuana on sexual behavior, including the commission of sexual offenses will be treated in the following section on marihuana and sexual behavior.)

The popular and professional literature contains numerous unsupported and often emotionally charged accusations regarding marihuana's contribution to violence.

In at least two dozen comparatively recent eases of murder or degenerate sex attacks, marihuana proved to be a contributing cause (Anslinger, 1937).

In a recent study of thirty-seven murders in New Orleans in a year, seventeen were traced directly to marihuana. . . . Evil marihuana is pock-marking this nation with murders, sex attacks, suicides, and crimes in every category from bank stick-ups to petty thievery . . . (LaRoe, 1940).

Marihuana, while giving the hallucinations of cocaine, adds delusions of impending physical attack by one's best friend or close relatives. In addition, marihuana is intrinsically and inherently crime exciting. It has led to some of the most revolting cases of sadistic rape and murder of modern times (Rowell and Rowell, 1939: 67).

Even sex does not satisfy the abnormal urges induced by marihuana. There is still the necessity for further excitement, more emotional release. That is when the guns are grabbed, the knives waved and the razors swung. And all that is a marihuana user's idea of what is normal! (Williams, 1969).

To add greater credibility to their undocumented assertions, some persons describe the manner in which the drug purportedly leads to violence.

In the earliest stages of intoxication the willpower is destroyed and inhibitions and restraints are released; the moral barricades are broken down and often debauchery and sexuality result. Where mental instability is inherent, the behavior is generally violent. An egotist will enjoy delusions of grandeur, the timid individual will suffer anxiety, and the aggressive one often will resort to acts of violence and crime ... (Anslinger and Tompkins, 1953: 22).

Smoking of the weed is habit-forming. It destroys willpower, releases restraints, and promotes insane reactions ... Robberies, thrill murders, sex crimes and other offenses result (New York Daily Worker, 1940, in Solomon, 1968: 288).

Others simply deny these allegations or assert that there is no evidence to support the thesis of an independent causal relationship.

The fact that so many witnesses testified to the peaceable and orderly character of the excessive consumers goes far to prove that in this country experience shows that as a rule these (hemp) drugs do not tend to violent crime and violence (Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1969: 258).

A fair summary of the available evidence would be that very rarely do major (particularly violent) crimes follow upon the use of the drug, and that, in instances where they do, the relationship is an indirect one (Ausubel, 1958: 103).

One likely hypothesis is that, given the accepted tendency of marihuana to release inhibitions, the effect of the drug will depend on the individual and the circumstances. It might, but certainly will not necessarily or inevitably, lead to aggressive behavior or crime (President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, 1967: 13).

The relationship between marihuana use land the commission of aggressive acts or violent crime such as murder, rape and assault remains one of the most controversial issues relating to the drug. Persons who believe that such a relationship exists often argue that marihuana triggers the release of inhibitions and restraints, destroys the will power and heightens aggressive tendencies of the user, serving as a catalyst for the commission of aggressive or violent acts.

This argument raises several fundamental questions: Are the effects presumably induced by the drug commonly experienced by marihuana users? Are these effects, to the extent that, they do occur, generally or frequently translated into overt behavior? And is the behavior which presumably manifests itself ordinarily violent or aggressive?

The answers to these questions may be obtained from several sources, including the results of laboratory experiments designed to measure certain physiological and psychological reactions and to identify observable behavioral effects; and retrospective self-reports of effects purportedly experienced by marihuana users. Additional clues may be gained from examination of the criminal records of known marihuana users and the incidence of marihuana. use among persons arrested for or convicted of violent crimes. However, while these latter methods may reveal statistical associations (which could prove to be spurious upon further analysis), they should riot be interpreted to demonstrate the existence of a causal connection between marihuana use and the offenses committed.

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