Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Social Impact of Marihuana Use- Marihuana And The Dominant Social Order

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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National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Chapter III

Social Impact of marihuana use

Marihuana And The Dominant Social Order

For more than 30 years it has been widely assumed that the marihuana user constitutes a threat to the well-being of the community and the nation. Originally, the users were considered to be "outsiders" or marginal citizens. Included were such people as hustlers, prostitutes, itinerant workers, merchant seamen, miners and ranchhands, water-front day laborers and drifters, many of whom were drawn from the lower socioeconomic segments of the population.

Concerns about marihuana use expressed in the 1930's related primarily to a perceived inconsistency between the life styles and values of these individuals and the social and moral order. Their potential influence on the young was especially worrisome. When marihuana was first prohibited, a recurrent fear was that use might spread among the youth. And in the late 1930's and 1940's, the attraction of young people to jazz music was thought to be in part related to marihuana use by this "outsider" population.

Throughout this early period, American society, in reaction to its fear of the unfamiliar, translated rumor about the criminality and immorality of the marihuana user into "unquestioned fact" which, in turn, was translated into social policy.

From the mid-thirties to the present, however, social perceptions have undergone significant change in response to the emergence of new and challenging social problems. As marihuana, use has spread to include the affluent, middle class, white high school and college-age youth as well as minority group members of lower socioeconomic circumstances in urban core areas, the concept of marginality has become blurred.

Also, as the use of marihuana has increased, those individuals formerly labeled as marginal and threatening have been replaced by a more middle class, white, educated and younger population of marihuana smokers. A stereotyped user no longer exists, and therefore, the question now properly focuses on who poses a threat to the dominant order.


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