A lot of people have been getting pretty self-righteous since the Eugene police started cleaning up on the nasty old marijuana smokers, especially since some of them were among the “hippies” we defended last week. A lot of people keep saying “see, see, nasty, nasty.”
That ignores the main issue. The people who got arrested were picked up under a law that’s as out-of-date as prohibition. Marijuana should no more be illegal than water. (In fact, the way the lumber industry and others are going in this state, marijuana is probably purer than water.)
Consider the evidence that follows.
Some people say marijuana should be illegal because it is physically harmful, like heroin or LSD.
We quote from the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, a United Nations agency, (Volume 35, Number 5, 1965):
“. . . There is, in consequence, no characteristic abstinence syndrome when use of the drug is discontinued.
“Whereas cannabis (marijuana) often attracts the mentally unstable and may precipitate temporary psychosis in predisposed individuals, no unequivocal evidence is available that lasting mental changes are produced.
“Drug dependence of the cannabis type is a state arising from chronic or periodic administration of cannabis substances (natural or synthetic). Its characteristics are:
“(a) Moderate to strong psychic dependence on account of the desired subjective effects.
“(b) Absence of phsyical dependence, so that there is no characteristic abstinence syndrome when the drug is discontinued.
“(c) Little tendency to increase the dose and no evidence of tolerance.”
In fact, it’s doubtful that a hippie smoking pot is hurting himself any more than a pot-bellied Eugene businessman downing his martini at the end of the day. Listen to Dr. Joel Fort, director of the Center for Treatment and Education on Alcoholism in San Francisco, lecturer in the University of California School of Criminology, and consultant on drug addiction with the World Health Organization: “Cannabis (marijuana) is a valuable, pleasure-giving drug, probably much safer than alcohol but condemned by the power structure of our society.”
One reason that marijuana is safer than alcohol, according to studies, is that the marijuana users maintain control of their faculties and are less likely to get involved in accidents. As the WHO study notes, it has also been medically proven that alcohol has a much higher potential for physical dependence, increasing dosage, and psychological dependence than marijuana.
WHY NOT LEGALIZE IT?
If marijuana isn’t any more harmful than alcohol why not legalize it? It leads to stronger, more harmful drugs, people say.
Also listen to the man who engineered passage of the present statute against marijuana use, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Asked by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in 1937 whether marijuana use leads to heroin addiction, Henry J. Anslinger, the federal commissioner or narcotics, said, “No, sir. I have not heard of a case of that kind. I think it’s an entirely different class. The marijuana addict (whatever that is) does not go in that direction.”
If there is any connection between marijuana use and addiction to stronger drugs like heroin, it arises from the fact that they are both illegal. Thus the guy who pushes marijuana may also have some heroin and persuade the marijuana user to try it. The cases where this occurs could be eliminated by taking marijuana out of the heroin league and making it legal.
Even federal officials agree that marijuana penalties are at least “too severe.” That’s what Dr. James L. Goddard, director of the U.S. Public Health Service, told a colloquium on drug use at Cornell University in 1966. And Dr. James Fox, a staff member of the federal Bureau of Drug Abuse Control, told a National Student Association workshop last summer, “I would say that there may very well be some modification in government attitudes toward marijuana.”
NOT IN THE SAME LEAGUE
The strict laws against marijuana make it difficult to convince many people (especially those who know that marijuana is comparatively harmless) that really dangerous drugs, such as heroin and LSD, are harmful and ought to be illegal. And medical evidence makes it clear that marijuana is not in the same league as acid and heroin. (Let us make it clear at this point that the Emerald does not believe either heroin or LSD should be legalized.)
Besides all these negative arguments about what marijuana isn’t, there’s the positive argument about what it is. Those who’ve used it, such as poet Alan Ginsburg, say it gives much more pleasure and enjoyment than alcohol and certainly more than tobacco. And nobody has ever maintained that marijuana causes cancer.
So that’s the case for legalization. We think it’s time people stopped pointing their fingers at these kids who have been arrested for breaking an antiquated law. Instead, the finger-pointers should expend their energy getting rid of the law.
The Emerald doesn’t necessarily recommend that everyone take marijuana, but we think it should be legal for those who want to.