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The Marijuana Smokers

  Erich Goode

    foreword by Alfred R. Lindesmith


      Foreword by Alfred R. Lindesmith
1.   Overview
2.   A Profile of the Marijuana Smoker
3.   Marijuana and the Politics of Reality
4.   The Smoker's View of Marijuana
5.   Physicians on Marijuana Use
6.   Turning On: Becoming a Marijuana User
7.   The Effects of Marijuana
8.   Multiple Drug Use Among Marijuana Smokers
9.   Marijuana, Crime, and Violence
10. Using, Selling, and Dealing Marijuana
11. Marijuana and the Law
12. Epilogue: Models of Marijuana Use
      Appendix — Research Experience

The Marijuana Smokers  1970 by Basic Books
appears in The Schaffer Library by permission of the Author.




Professor of Sociology, Indiana University

    It seems clear today that our anti-marijuana laws must and will be changed. Indeed, something like two-thirds of the states have already either reduced penalties or have such reductions under consideration. A similar trend has appeared on the national scene. In the meantime the great debate on the subject, which is so skilfully dissected and probed by Professor Goode, rages on. On the one hand, the use of marijuana seems to be spreading in ever-widening circles, while, on the other, the debate itself seems to be intensifying and regressing to lower levels. What began some decades ago as a fairly dignified intellectual argument among relatively small numbers of scholars, scientists, and public officials has degenerated into something like a huge barroom brawl with nearly everyone getting into the act. The fact that changes in the laws now seem to be in the offing probably has less connection with the debate than with the fact that pot is now being smoked by so many sons and daughters and some adults of the affluent and influential classes that wield political power.
    The use of drugs constitutes intrinsically a personal habit, which, if it leads to any harm, directly and primarily injures the user himself rather than others. According to the doctrine of criminal law, acts ought ordinarily to be defined as crimes only when they threaten or injure others. Since our marijuana and other drug laws provide severe punishment for the mere possessor of the drug, regardless of whether there is any harm to others or even to self, they are correctly designated as morality legislation. Professor Goode has thus provided us with a superb account and analysis of the dilemmas, contradictions, and problems generated by the attempt to legislate morality.
    Perhaps a central dilemma of the anti-marijuana laws and of our drug laws in general is that the evil personal and social consequences of felony prosecutions are probably greater than are the effects of any drug, whether it be marijuana, heroin, or alcohol. Historical examples of the unhappy consequences that seem characteristically to follow from governmental attempts to suppress popular bad habits by exercising policy power are numerous. The current crisis with respect to heroin addiction in our biggest cities after a half century of severe repression is another example.
    It is axiomatic in democratic societies that, to be effective and just, governing must be done with the consent of the governed. To be effectively enforced, laws must enlist popular support and be based on some reasonable societal consensus. Sheer majority rule is not the whole story either, for it entails the hazard of tyranny by the majority. On the majority principle alone the blacks in the United States would have no hope, since they could always be outvoted by the white majority. The drug problem, like that of race, involves fundamental principles that qualify and limit majority rule, such as those of minority rights, individual liberty, equality before the law, and the right of privacy. Official discussions of drug policy have in the past ordinarily ignored such matters and have, instead, focused almost exclusively on punishment, deterrence, and protection of society, with society so conceived as to exclude the user of illicit drugs.
    To those who believe as I do that the present marijuana laws are unjust and divisive and that the pot debate is more dangerous to the society than pot itself, the current disposition on many questions to treat the whole subject as a joke suggests that basic change may be nearer than we think. As Goode effectively demonstrates, mere evidence, logical arguments, and the other standard devices that are used to persuade and produce consensus among reasonable men do not seem to work in this case---perhaps because the debate is not a real one but only an expression of underlying and unstated motivations, resentments, or political considerations. Perhaps the case for reform can best be made by jokes and laughter.
    At any rate, it is evident that a great deal of public joking is being done and that the user of marijuana is not seriously regarded as a genuine criminal. Recent movies, for example, portray the use of pot as a gag, and at least one movie director has stated that real marijuana was smoked during the filming. Pot parties, involving the commission of what the statutes define as heinous crimes, have been presented on the television screen to entertain the viewing public. Various popular television programs regularly include pot jokes. In private conversations such jokes are even more common, and little or no stigma attaches in many circles to admitting in private that one has smoked or would like to smoke. Numerous stories float around about policemen, even narcotic agents, who smoke the weed or have at least tried it. The experiment with alcohol prohibition, it will be remembered, was also to some extent laughed out of court.
    It, of course, is no laughing matter to be busted for a marijuana offense, as the police sometimes grimly remind us. Nevertheless, the statistical evidence demonstrates that criticism of the laws, widespread disregard and disrespect for the marijuana laws and their enforcers, and the sheer impossibility and absurdity of trying to lock up any appreciable proportion of the users, especially of middle- and upper-class users, has begun seriously to undermine enforcement morale. In agreement with a large proportion of the public, enforcement and court officials probably intuitively believe that it is harm to others, not to self, that makes crime and consequently find it impossible or difficult to think of a marijuana user as a real criminal. The idea that such persons should be incarcerated in already overcrowded penal institutions in order to protect society and to cure them of a personal habit which harms no one else, and possibly not even them, is probably hard for officials to grasp also. At any rate, there is an enormous gap between the law as written and the law as actually enforced, and this fact further discredits the system and the establishment.
    Professor Goode does not spell out precisely what changes ought to be made or what our drug policy ought to be. He is primarily concerned with depicting the way of life and points of view of the marijuana smoker and with analyzing the arguments and perspectives of those who are in one way or another concerned with marijuana policy. Information of the kind he presents so perceptively, honestly, and fully should play a vital and indispensable role in the eventual formulation of a wiser policy than the present one. Perhaps the implication of his book might best be described as procedural rather than substantive: that before we legislate we should know what we are doing and try to understand both the people whom we legislate against and those whom we think we are protecting. It is probable, for example, that if the drug laws were framed so as to provide protection from dangers which the young, users and nonusers alike, themselves perceive as dangers, they would support such laws. At present the law poses a greater threat than the drugs themselves. What is implied by these suggestions is not necessarily that marijuana be legalized, whatever that means, but that we return to the principle of government with the consent of the governed.

    July 1970



    Styles of research are as varied as the researchers who practice them. At one pole we have the massively collective enterprise, located in a well-endowed bureau of research, often undertaken by no one in particular and completed by a dozen hands whose involvement bears no relation to the interests or passions of their lives; not uncommonly, the project is conducted for the simple reason that some organization will derive, or thinks it will derive, some practical utility therefrom, and is willing to pay for it. At the other pole, we have the efforts of a lone scholar, be he amateur or professional who imbues every aspect of his work with the stamp of his idiosyncrasies and concerns; with him, the project is undertaken and the research completed not because it was financially supported, but because he was determined to find out what the answers were.
    In spite of the fact that this book belongs to the latter of these two types, the debts I have incurred in the effort are manifold. First and foremost among them is the thanks that is due my 204 respondents. It is their book, really, their story, and I hope that I have been faithful to their will and impulse. Certainly this book would not exist without their cooperation and their willingness to risk exposure by talking to me. It is their wish, naturally, to receive my thanks anonymously. Second, the cost of many of the more tedious details of research were covered by the National Institute of Mental Health whose grant (MH-15659) enabled me to pay a part-time research assistant for one year, a job which Miss Judith Rutberg performed with especial efficiency and good cheer. In addition, a Faculty Research Fellowship from the Research Foundation of the State University of New York relieved me of the burden of having to earn a living during the two summers of 1968 and 1969 that it took to write this book. To both granting agencies I am profoundly grateful. The sponsorship of neither indicates any agreement with my conclusions; in fact, insofar as it is possible to detect an official view, that of both agencies would be unfavorable to my own. It is a sign of a healthy society that support may be found for views which vary from the official perspective.
    The third debt I owe is to the colleagues and friends who offered useful comments, criticisms, suggestions, and pieces of information. Some of the most helpful of these I received from Jerry Mandel, Eliot Freidson, Andrew Weil, Richard Evans Schultes, John Gagnon, Harvey Farberman, Bill French, Stephen Berger, James Hudson, Stephen Cole, John O'Donnell, Gilbert Geis, Robert Bagnall, Josephine Lopez, Richard Bogg, and David and Nanci Orlow. I was privileged to make use of a manuscript of a forthcoming book by Professor John Kaplan on marijuana use which proved to be extremely useful. Generally, our conclusions separately corroborate one another, but some cross-fertilization did take place. In writing style, my editor, William Gum, has done an heroic job of keeping my untidy prose in reasonably readable form. And finally, my wife, Alice, who tolerated a partial neglect during my productive months, deserves at least one hosanna.
    A few sections of this book have appeared in print previously. Chapter 3, "Marijuana and the Politics of Reality," is a slightly revised version of an article of the same name which was published in the June 1969 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Chapter 8, "Multiple Drug Use among Marijuana Smokers," is a revised and expanded version of a paper which first appeared in the Summer 1969 issue of Social Problems (published by The Society for the Study of Social Problems). Chapter 10, "Using, Selling, and Dealing Marijuana," appeared, in condensed form, in the Columbia Forum, Winter 1969 as "The Marijuana Market." The section in Chapter 7 on sexual behavior was published in the May 1969 issue of the Evergreen Review, as "Marijuana and Sex." I occasionally quote from my anthology, Marijuana, published by the Atherton Press, 1969. Permission to reprint these works is gratefully acknowledged.

    June 1970
    Strong's Neck, New York


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