Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Marihuana Use and Its Effects - SUMMARY

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

The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana - A Signal of Misunderstanding.

Chapter II

marihuana use and its effects


Once existing marihuana, policy was cast into the realm of public debate, partisans on both sides of the issue over-simplified the question of the effects of use of the, drug on the individual. Proponents of the prohibitory legal system contended that marihuana, was a, dangerous drug, while opponents insisted that it was a harmless drug or was less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

Any psychoactive drug is potentially harmful to the individual, depending on the intensity, frequency and duration of use. Marihuana is no exception. Because the particular hazards of use differ for different drugs, it makes no sense, to compare the harmfulness of different drugs. One may compare, insofar as the individual is concerned, only the harmfulness of specific effects. Is heroin less harmful than alcohol because, unlike alcohol, it directly causes no physical in-jury? Or is heroin more harmful than alcohol because at normal doses its use is more incapacitating in a behavioral sense?

Assessment of the relative dangers of particular drugs is meaningful only in a wider context which weighs the possible benefits of the drugs, the comparative scope of their use, and their relative impact on society at large. We consider these questions in the next Chapter, particularly in connection with the impact on public health.

Looking only at the effects on the individual, there, is little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis, including the resinous mixtures commonly used in this country. The risk of harm lies instead in the heavy, long-term use of the drug, particularly of the most potent preparations.

The experimenter and the intermittent users develop little or no psychological dependence on the drug. No organ injury is demonstrable.

Some moderate users evidence a degree of psychological dependence which increases in intensity with prolonged duration of use. Behavioral effects are lesser in stable personalities but greater in those with emotional instability. Prolonged duration of use does increase the probability of some behavioral and organic consequences including the possible shift to a heavy use pattern.

The heavy user shows strong psychological dependence on marihuana and often hashish. Organ injury, especially diminuation of pulmonary function, is possible. Specific behavioral changes are detectable. All of these effects are more apparent with long-term and very long-term heavy use than with short-term heavy use.

The very heavy users, found in countries where the use of cannabis has been indigenous for centuries, have a compulsive psychological dependence on the drug, most commonly used in the form of hashish. Clear-cut behavioral changes and a greater incidence of associated biological injury occur as duration of use increases. At present, the Commission is unaware of any similar pattern in this country.


Previous Page Next Page