40 Years Ago Today: Congress Was Told To Tell The Truth About Marijuana; They Didn’t

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 22, 2012

    Forty years ago today, a Congressionally mandated commission on US drug policy did something extraordinary: they told the truth about marijuana.

    On March 22, 1972, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse — chaired by former Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer — recommended that Congress amend federal law so that the use and possession of cannabis would no longer be a criminal offense. State legislatures, the Commission added, should do likewise.

    “[T]he criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use,” concluded the 13-member Commission, which included nine hand-picked appointees of then-President Richard Nixon. “It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance.

    Richard Nixon

    “… Therefore, the Commission recommends … [that the] possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense, [and that the] casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration, no longer be an offense.”

    Members of the Commission further acknowledged that marijuana did not meet the criteria of a schedule I controlled substance under federal law, a classification that places cannabis along side heroin as a prohibited substance without any therapeutic value.

    Nonetheless Nixon, true to his ‘law-and-order’ roots, shelved the report and its recommendations — announcing instead, “We need, and I use the word ‘all out war,’ on all fronts.” Since Nixon’s rejection of the Shafer report, annual data from the FBI reports that more than 21.5 million Americans have been arrested and criminally prosecuted for violating marijuana laws. Upwards of 80 percent of those arrested were for charged with possession only offenses, not sales or trafficking.

    Annual Marijuana Arrests in the US

    Yet despite the federal government’s 40-year ‘war on pot,’ today an estimated 45 percent of US adults acknowledge having consumed cannabis at some point in their lives, with nearly 12 percent admitting having done so in the past year. A majority of Americans now say that the plant should be legalized and regulated for adults. Over 80 percent of Americans say that cannabis should be available as a therapy when recommended by a physician.

    Why? Because Western civilization has been using cannabis as a therapeutic agent or recreational intoxicant for thousands of years with relatively few adverse consequences — either to the individual user or to society. In fact, no less than the World Health Organization has acknowledged: “Overall, most of these risks (associated with marijuana) are small to moderate in size. In aggregate they are unlikely to produce public health problems comparable in scale to those currently produced by alcohol and tobacco. On existing patterns of use, cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies.”

    Forty years ago today the Nixon administration had an unprecedented opportunity to enact a rational pot policy. They were provided with the truth about cannabis, but they refused to listen.

    Four decades later, it is time for the Obama administration to listen — and to act. It’s time to make peace with pot.

    144 Responses to “40 Years Ago Today: Congress Was Told To Tell The Truth About Marijuana; They Didn’t”

    1. […] The War on "Drugs" was essentially launched as a means to control a certain segment of society. The disgraced former President Richard Nixon has admitted that a major reason for launching the War on "Drugs" was to curtail Vietnam War Protestors-a means to arrest and disband protests where the use of marijuana may have been prevalant but also very benevolent and peaceful. 40 Years Ago Today: Congress Was Told To Tell The Truth About Marijuana; They Didn’t | NORML B… […]

    2. […] Nixon waged "an all out war" on the plant was to curb Anti-Vietnam war protesters? 40 Years Ago Today: Congress Was Told To Tell The Truth About Marijuana; They Didn’t | NORML B… When I read opinions like yours I can't help but think Americans deserve the Government they […]

    3. […] Originally Posted by Amerikrainian Anyway, just consider this. If the other half of jails were full of robbers, would you simply want to make robbery legal too? After all, then the jails wouldn't be so full. Drugs are illegal because they are detrimental to society. And if nobody had to consider criminal penalties, you can be sure that far more people would use drugs. Then drugs would become part of the everyday American experience, and nobody would benefit from that in any positive way. Just because a lot of people do something that is illegal, doesnt mean it should be legalized. That's flawed logic. I understand the concern about people who are throwing their lives away and their freedom too, but the solution requires a societal change. We need to teach people the value of ambition and the results of honest, hard work. I might add that we need to stay focused on restructuring our system so that it rewards those things. Humans have been altering their state of mind since the beginning of time, this is nothing new. Marijuana is not illegal because it is detrimental to society. Marijuana has never produced a single fatality in it's 2000+ year recorded history. The prohibition of marijuana is based on racism, special interests (such as the patent of nylon by DuPont, Big Oil and now the growing Prison and law enforcement lobbyists, among others), and anti-war protester concerns in the 1960's. There are many legal substances that are not safe for consumption. Cigarettes, Alcohol and Presciption Pills are all MUCH of a bigger threat to society. Hell, even 64 Oz. sodas McDonalds and reality TV are more of a detriment to society than is the miracle plant. When Nixon issued researchers to study the health effects of Marijuana, he shredded the results and launched the longest and costliest war in United States history. The basis of which is built on lies and propaganda. 40 Years Ago Today: Congress Was Told To Tell The Truth About Marijuana; They Didn’t | NORML B… […]

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