Marijuana and the Law

February 21, 1975

Report Outline
Changing Perspective on Drug Abuse
Background of the Marijuana Debate
Marijuana Issues and Public Policy
Special Focus

Changing Perspective on Drug Abuse

Anbivalent Attitude Toward Nation's Drug Cultute

A major shift in American policy toward drug abuse seems in the offing. Support is growing in public and private circles to relax the nation's marijuana laws. The 94th Congress will almost certainly be asked to consider legislation removing criminal penalties for marijuana use. Similar legislation is already in effect in Oregon and is being considered by a number of other states.

Americans have long been ambiguous in their attitudes toward drugs. Concern about drug abuse has risen and fallen at different periods in our history. At various times, different drugs have been looked on as menaces to personal health and social well-being. Alcohol was banned in the United States for a 13-year period from 1920 to 1933. Throughout the Prohibition era, Americans continued to consume it in large quantities and it is now the favorite mood-altering drug of most adult Americans. Opiates, on the other hand, were freely available in the United States during the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, either as raw opium for smoking or as ingredients in patent medicines and prescriptions. For the past 60 years, however, the medical uses of opiates have been strictly controlled and non-medical uses forbidden.

For decades, public officials have issued thunderous and thoroughly confusing statements about the dangers of one drug or another. Their warnings have frequently been in conflict with research findings and expert opinion. As a result of the confusion and ambiguity, government policies and laws on drugs have undergone almost continuous change in recent decades. At times, government officials have been selectively permissive toward certain drugs. At other times, they have helped generate an atmosphere of panic and hysteria about American drug problems. “American concern with narcotics,” said Dr. David F. Musto of Yale University, “is more than a medical or legal problem—it is in the fullest sense a political problem.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jul. 21, 2017  Medical Marijuana
Oct. 16, 2015  Marijuana Industry
Feb. 11, 2005  Marijuana Laws
Aug. 20, 1999  Medical Marijuana
Feb. 12, 1982  Marijuana Update
Feb. 21, 1975  Marijuana and the Law
Aug. 09, 1967  Legalization of Marijuana
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