Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

History of Marihuana Legislation

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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Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents

The Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

I. Control of Marihuana, Alcohol and Tobacco

History of Marihuana Legislation*



This chapter traces the legislative histories of marihuana, alcohol, and tobacco.

In the first section, "History of Marihuana Legislation," the origins of the intoxicant use of cannabis in this country during the early 20th century are noted along with the subsequent state and federal statutes enacted prohibiting use, distribution, production and sale.

Proscriptions began appearing on the books after about 1914 and continued through 1971, which brings the reader to the point subsequently covered by the rest of this Appendix.

Early colonial laws regarding alcohol are described in the beginning of the next section, "History of Alcohol Prohibition." From that point in history, the national movements which spread over the next two centuries, culminating in the enactment of National Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, are described.

The various state modes of control which appeared after Repeal are then briefly enumerated along with a discussion of the present state controls over production, distribution, and sale of intoxicating beverages.

The introduction of tobacco cultivation in 1613 in the colony of Virginia opens the third section, "History of Tobacco Regulation." The widespread use of tobacco in the latter 1800's into the first half of the 20th century is traced along with the increasing pressure from groups fearful of tobacco's deleterious effects on health.

Federal sumptuary regulations are outlined along, with a discussion of the impact further federal controls might have on the tobacco economy.

History of Marihuana Legislation*

*This section is drawn from the manuscript of The Marihuana Consensus: A History of American Marihuana Prohibition, in press 1972, by Professors Charles H. Whitebread, 11, and Richard J. Bonnie of the University of Virginia Law School.

"Marihuana" or Indian hemp, labeled Cannabis Sativa L. by Linneas in 1753, has been used for centuries in Asia and Africa for its intoxicant properties. It was cultivated as a source of fiber in North America in the early 17th century. Yet, cannabis was not used as an intoxicant in North America until the late 19th century, and in the United States until the early 20th.

Cannabis use was prevalent in Mexico by 1898. Widely cultivated and growing wild, the drug was readily available for eating, drinking, or smoking, the latter being by far the most common method of ingestion. Soldiers in Pancho Villa's army are reputed to have used the drug freely. The path of the introduction of marihuana smoking for pleasure into the United States was not via Europe, which transmitted the fiber, oil, and medicinal uses of hemp, but via Mexico and the West Indies.

The plant and its intoxicant use in the United States in the first decades of the 20th century encountered a political and social climate which was not particularly conducive to hearty growth. Gradually criminal prohibitions appeared on the statute books of nearly every state where the drug was used.

Well into the thirties, however, marihuana smoking attracted little attention from the national policy and opinion apparatus which was deeply ensnared in drug matters of much wider social impact than the limited, regional use of this new drug.

The "villain" theory of American marihuana prohibition - attributing the drug's illegal status to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and its longtime head, Harry J. Anslinger - has been particularly popular in recent years.

Although the federal narcotics bureaucracy, with Commissioner Anslinger at the helm, was to become marihuana's leading antagonist in the mid-thirties, a restrictive, public policy toward the drug was well-rooted locally before that time. During the "local" phase of marihuana prohibition, lasting roughly from 1914 to 1931, practically every state west of the Mississippi, except for two, had prohibited use of the drug for non-medical purposes.

The real story of marihuana policy in the United States begins as a series of distinctly local tales.

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