Marijuana Update

February 12, 1982

Report Outline
New Public Perception
Issue of Adolescent Use
Marijuana and the Law
Special Focus

New Public Perception

About-Face Begining in Late 1970s

In November 1974 Dr. Robert L. DuPont, director of the White House Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, delivered the keynote speech at the annual convention of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Dr. DuPont, a psychiatrist and one of the nation's top drug experts, told the gathering that marijuana possession should not be a crime because criminal penalties did little to prevent abuse of the drug. Dr. DuPont continued to speak out for the decriminalization of marijuana after he became head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 1975.

But now Dr. DuPont has changed his position. “If you are for decriminalization, you are, in the public mind, for pot,” he said recently. “That process has forced me to retreat on my earlier position on decriminalization….” Dr. DuPont says he still does not want marijuana smokers to go to jail. But because of what he believes is new evidence linking marijuana to health problems, Dr. DuPont favors keeping the drug illegal and enforcing the laws against its production, sale and possession.

DuPont's change in thinking symbolizes a recent swing in the public perception of marijuana, a drug that 55 million Americans have tried and 23 million use on a regular basis. At the time Dr. DuPont was speaking out in favor of lowering penalties for marijuana possession there was a strong national marijuana reform movement led by NORML. From 1973 to 1978, 11 states passed laws decriminalizing marijuana (see p. 122). It was a time when marijuana was widely perceived as a harmless social drug—the drug of choice for young Americans, as alcohol was for their elders. During the 1976 presidential campaign candidate Jimmy Carter came out in favor of decriminalization. Carter's adviser on drug policy, Dr. Peter Bourne, was progressive in his views on marijuana, and worked closely with NORML officials.

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
Alternative Medicine
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