Excerpt from Smoke and Mirrors:

Marijuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding


The inevitable finally happened: the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse delivered its report to the White House. Michael Sonnenreich gave the document a name he felt captured the essence of the pot issue: Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding. The conclusion: marijuana should be legalized.

Health effects are minimal. The "gateway drug" theory has no basis. If anything, smoking marijuana inhibits criminal behavior. 'since the beginning of our official life," the report read, "we have grappled with the threshold question: why has the use of marihuana reached problem status in the public mind?" The answer, it said, lies not in its pharmacological properties. "Many see the drug as fostering a counterculture which conflicts with basic moral precepts as well as with the operating functions of our society." Idleness, hedonism, and sexual promiscuity are cultural factors linked with the drug, the report explained, and " 'dropping out' or rejection of the established value system is viewed with alarm. Marihuana becomes more than a drug; it becomes a symbol of the rejection of cherished values."

This was President Nixon's own commission and, from the White House point of view, the report went downhill from there, audaciously siding with the "counterculture."

"Our youth cannot understand why society chooses to criminalize a behavior with so little visible ill effect or adverse social impact.... These young people have jumped the fence and found no cliff. And the disrespect for the possession laws fosters a disrespect for law and the system in general.... On top of this is the distinct impression among the youth that some police may use the marihuana laws to arrest people they don't like for other reasons, whether it be their politics, their hair style or their ethnic background."

The commission was telling Nixon, in effect, that the real marijuana problem wasn't the drug, but the war on the drug. The war was alienating young people, turning "straight" society against the counterculture, and leading police to use pot laws as political weapons. Marijuana prohibition, the commission concluded, is not in the national interest.


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