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The Marijuana Smokers

  Erich Goode

    Chapter 9 - Marijuana, Crime, and Violence*


    If cannabis could be shown to have a criminogenic and violence-inducing effect, the argument would shift from an issue of civil liberties to the question of the protection of society. It would no longer be a matter of the condemnation and criminalization of a certain style of life, of preventing the user from "harming" himself and prohibiting him from enjoying his own particular "vice" in the privacy of his home, much like pornography. The issue of the criminogenics of marijuana takes the debate out of the murky habitat of the user. Everybody is affected if the drug produces the will to do harm to another. This deserves investigation.
    The classic presentation of the position that marijuana unleashes violence in the user came out of the 1920s and 1930s. One such testimony details this position:
Police officials told us that the underworld has been quick to realize the possibilities of using this drug to prey upon human derelicts. It is used to sweep away all restraint. They have found that before undertaking a desperate crime, many a criminal indulges in marihuana cigarettes in order to do away with fear and to get the "courage" necessary for his crime. The marihuana addict may run amuck, and wreak havoc. Amnesia often occurs during this advanced stage, in which the subjects commit antisocial acts.
    Perhaps the most marked effects of marijuana can be observed in its attack upon the moral standards of the user. In this respect it goes farther than alcohol. Alcohol will lower the standards and release the inhibitions, allowing the individual to follow his base and secret desires. Marihuana destroys the inhibitions much more effectively and completely, abolishing the power of censoring one's acts, and doing away with the conception of right and wrong. It not only destroys the true conception, but sets up in its place a totally false conception. Whereas liquor breaks down moral standards, marihuana not only breaks them down, but sets up in their place standards diametrically opposed. Under alcohol it is all right to disregard that which is moral and right; under marijuana it is not only right to do wrong, but it would be wrong not to do wrong.... . immediately upon the loss of moral control, the subject becomes convinced that a certain act, from pickpocketing and theft to rape and murder, is necessary, and is seized by an overwhelming desire to perform that act because to him it becomes a deed born of necessity....
    Intoxicated by liquor, a crime may be committed because moral restraint is not functioning; under the spell of marihuana, the crime must be committed because it is the right thing to do, and it would be wrong not to do it....
    A remarkable difference between opium derivatives and marijuana lies in the strange fact that while under the influence of marihuana the addict is frenzied and may do anything; it is only when he is deprived of his drug that the morphinist or the heroinist becomes frenzied and commits crimes.
    Marihuana, while giving the hallucinations of cocaine, adds delusions of impending physical attack by one's best friend or close relatives. In addition, marihuana is intrinsically and inherently crime exciting. It has led to some of the most revolting cases of sadistic rape and murder of modern times...[1]

    This is the issue in its purest form. Although few participants of the debate would accept this version literally, some do accept its basic premise—that marijuana is inherently criminogenic. Thus, the question of marijuana's impact on crime needs exploration.


Doctors, Policemen, and Sociologists

    The position that marijuana causes crime and violence does not have full support today. In fact, only the police and some segments of the public are solidly behind the contention that marijuana actually causes crime[2] and violence. The official stance of federal,[3] state, and most local law enforcement agents is that marijuana, at the very least, plays a significant role in the commission of crimes of violence. "Marihuana is not only an extremely dangerous drug, it is a menace to public health, safety and welfare" said the ex-Commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, Henry L. Giordano.[4] "Every user is a potential danger to the general public," Director of the New York State Bureau of Narcotic Control, and Executive Secretary of the International Narcotic Enforcement Officer's Association, John J. Bellizzi, is quoted as saying,[5] referring to a federally sponsored study to be discussed shortly. The Los Angeles Police Department, in conjunction with the Narcotic Education Foundation of America, has written, assembled, printed, and distributed a pamphlet entitled "Facts about Marijuana," which asserts the criminogenic power of cannabis.
    There seems little doubt that probably a majority of all law enforcement officers believe that marijuana is instrumental in the precipitation of criminal behavior. There are, of course, exceptions. Thorvald T. Brown, for instance, in a textbook on drugs for policemen wrote:
... there is no more criminality in a tin of marijuana than there is in a fifth of whiskey, gin or vodka.
    Bizarre criminal cases attributable to marihuana and other drugs, while common in newspaper stories, are rather rare in official police files. Crimes of violence such as murder, rape, mayhem, shootings, stabbings, pistolwhipping robberies and inane street beatings of innocent victims, occur every day in most American cities. Seldom is there any connection with these offenses and drugs.[6]

    Most of Brown's fellow officers would disagree. Speeches published in the annual Conference Reports of the International Narcotic Enforcement Officer Association are representative of the official police ideology, and they invariably present the "hard line" on the criminogenics of marijuana. Published statements by the police taking anything but the hard line are extremely rare, and are, without any doubt, exceptional.
    The medical profession is almost universal in its rejection of this position, a considerable change since the 1930S when many doctors writing about marijuana attributed to it a distinctly felonious character. Even today, however, we will find some physicians taking this view. In summing up, after reviewing over a dozen studies and opinions, Bloomquist explains the position this way:
What seems clear is that marijuana per se does not cause crime, in the sense that anyone taking it will of necessity commit criminal acts. But what is just as clear is that cannabis releases inhibitions and impairs judgment with such regular predictability that a user with criminal tendencies will readily commit crimes under the influence of marijuana. And it is documented that many already confirmed criminals use cannabis to buoy them [selves] up for the commission of criminal acts. The intent, or at least the disposition, to engage in criminal activity must exist in the user before using cannabis. But there seems to be a high incidence of what, at best, we must call unstable personalities who are attracted to cannabis, and the combination no doubt results in the frequently high correlation that law enforcement authorities have noted between cannabis and crime.[7]

    From my review of the medical writings on marijuana, however, the majority of physicians diverge from this moderately hardline view. Louria, for instance, writes that "there is no statistical evidence associating marijuana with violence in the United States. ... It would be fair to say that for the most part marijuana increases passivity, not aggression, but it does release inhibitions, it can produce panic or confusion and because of these effects can on occasion indeed lead to aggressive or violent behavior."[8] Roswell Johnson, Director of Health Services of Brown University, qualifies his position even less: "There is a widespread misconception that marijuana predisposes to crimes of violence. The exact opposite is probably closer to the facts.... reduction of work drive leads to a negative correlation with criminality rather than a positive one."[9]
    In a testimony before the California Public Health and Safety Committee, Thomas Ciesla, a psychiatrist, was engaged in the following dialogue:
Question: Have you ever come across a single case where somebody has undergone, perhaps, some personality change, perhaps one of having less personal restraint and has committed crimes because of this? Any kind of minor crimes, even, because of his habitual use of marijuana?
Ciesla: I have not.
Question: Do you know anyone who has?
Ciesla: No, I don't.[10]

    Duke Fisher, at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, in an unpublished study is quoted as saying: "I have never seen an example of an aggressive reaction to marijuana. In fact, I have found that quite the opposite seems to be true."
    It is reasonably safe to assume that of all the commentators on marijuana, the police are likeliest to take the most stubborn position on the drug's criminal dangers. Bloomquist suggests a situational reason for this:
When the police hear that "only a few" users become involved with crime they wonder how they keep meeting that few so constantly. And in truth there is a considerable gap between the experiences of the sociologist in his university office, or the psychiatrist in his handsomely appointed quarters on the one hand, and the police on the street on the other hand. It may not be so much that one or the other is wrong as that they just move in different circles.[11]

    To a large degree, Bloomquist is misstating the sociologist's role. As a student of deviant or criminal behavior, the sociologist should be at least as acquainted as the policeman with street-level crimes, since he has access to crimes that the policeman discovers only by accident. In fact, the sociologist is in a far better position to see an accurate picture of the criminogenic effects of marijuana than the policeman, because he is around marijuana users (or should be, if he is engaged in doing research on marijuana use) all the time, when they are engaged in activities of all types—including crime.
    The policeman, on the other hand is only concerned with the criminal aspect of marijuana use, and this fact alone would necessarily exaggerate its importance. That is, after all, the only thing he sees; that is what he is supposed to see. The policeman sees a visible tip of a very deep iceberg, most of which is hidden from view—at least, hidden from the view of the policeman. He is privileged to see only a highly biased segment of a highly complex phenomenon. Crimes, and especially violent crimes, are much more visible than noncriminal activity, and the policeman sees that segment which is most visible. They would therefore think that crime occurs among users much more than it actually does.
    In addition, those users who happen to get themselves arrested for marijuana crimes (as well as for other crimes that accidentally happen to reveal marijuana possession) are more likely to be involved in other criminal activity as well. They are individuals who are likely to be less discreet about their use. They attract public attention and sanction, making them more likely to be the kind of person who attracts the attention and suspicion of the police about all kinds of activities, including nondrug crimes. Thus, the policeman, as we would suspect, thinks that the crime rate among users is much higher than it is, because he simply isn't in a position to see its true extent. His view is highly partial and unrepresentative, while the sociologist, who invades the privacy of the user and delves into any and all aspects of his life, has the chance to develop a more balanced view.
    The Blumer report, still the definitive study of drug use in the ghetto slum, is highly skeptical of the marijuana-crime link. The project's researchers were engaged as participants and managed to observe every aspect of their subjects' social life. They found that drug users in the ghetto slum fell into four more or less distinct types: the "rowdy dude," the "pothead," the "mellow dude," and the "player." The first is a delinquent type, violent and criminal with or without the use of marijuana; the last is oriented to a life of professional criminality, marijuana use being one of his most harmless activities. The pothead and the mellow dude, basically, are hedonists, engaged in drug use, marijuana smoking almost exclusively, as an adjunct for pleasurable activities.
    Far from discovering a violent influence on marijuana users, the Blumer research revealed quite the opposite. In fact, the use of marijuana was part of a socializing process that simultaneously initiated the neophyte into the ritual of use and a "cool," non-rowdy way of life. As the youthful nonmarijuana user makes contacts in the user world, and is accepted as a potential participant, he realizes that a violent, rowdy way of life is looked down upon, or "ranked." The "cool" nonviolent style accompanies regular use. The "rowdy," on the other hand, uses marijuana only rarely (the "cools" are unwilling to accept the rowdy socially and to sell marijuana to him), more often using such substances as alcohol, glue, gasoline, lighter fluid, and sometimes the amphetamines and barbiturates. As he learns to use marijuana, he realizes that those who are initiating him frown on his violent style. The weed, in short, is associated, the researchers found out, with nonviolence and a distinctly cool style.
See, people I know, after they got hip to weed, they just climbed out of that rowdy trip. They squared off completely, you know, wanted to jump sharp, enjoy themselves and be mellow instead of getting all brutalized. You don't hear much about gang fights any more. People getting hip to weed.
    I can get loaded but there's a dude sitting right there I don't like, I hate his motherfucking guts, man, and if he says anything wrong, man, I can get up and hit him and think nothin' about it. But mostly people don't fight when they're loaded on weed. Weed slows you down and you don't think about fighting. You think about tripping. It's a big hassle to you, it's a big hangup.
    What happened to me was I was sniffing glue and got to smoking weed, you know. I got busted in tenth grade behind sniffing glue. Sitting in back of the drugstore with big old bags. Glue messes you up, man, jerked my mind and I didn't want to sniff glue, you know. Then I got loaded [on marijuana] and this guy started getting me loaded and I dropped glue see. But you know, if I were to have met somebody else that didn't smoke weed, maybe some rowdy cat, maybe I would have went somewhere else. I don't know what would have happened... took another course.[12]

    These quotes from three users illustrate that marijuana is associated in this particular subculture with the movement away from a violent way of life. As to whether this is a property of the drug, or simply the way of life of the people who use it, is impossible to tell. As a sociologist, my inclination is to say the latter. It is possible that there is a certain amount of pacific potential in marijuana, but the characteristics of the users has far more to do with their behavior under the influence of the drug than the pharmacological action of the drug itself. (In fact, because of this, the term "under the influence" is misleading.) Whichever it is, however, the Blumer study definitely pointed to a disassociation of marijuana with serious crime, especially violence.


Issues, Meaning, and Method

    As I see it, there are a number of separate yet interpenetrating problems associated with marijuana and crimes, all of which have to be solved before the issue can make sense in the first place:
  1. What does it mean, logically and empirically, to ask: Does marijuana "cause" crime?
  2. What kind of crimes are we talking about?
  3. What are the various reasons for the causal connection, if any?
  4. Does this causal connection vary from one social group to another, or is it the same for all?
  5. Does any empirical evidence exist supporting or refuting this causal connection?

    To get a meaningful understanding of the pot-crime issue, we must break down the various kinds of arguments and modes of reasoning. We encounter at least five methods of establishing the connection. The presentation of evidence gives a clue to the soundness of the argument. Some modes of presentation are crude, and the argument may be dismissed out of hand; others are more sophisticated and are more worthy of our attention. I will discuss the five types of arguments in order of their level of sophistication.


    While many attempts have been made to show that marijuana "causes" crime, the evidence presented to shore up the argument often only shows that some marijuana smokers commit crimes, or that it is possible to commit a crime under the influence of marijuana. Not even marijuana's staunchest supporter would argue that a crime has never been committed by a user while high. Yet, incredible as it seems, the burden of many "proofs" of marijuana's criminal effects has been precisely the simple fact that it is possible to locate crimes committed in conjunction with smoking marijuana. "Proof" by enumeration is no proof at all. By examining an enumeration of crimes which were committed under the influence of marijuana (even were this definitely known), it is impossible to determine the "cause" of the event taking place, in this case the crime—or, indeed, that marijuana has anything whatsoever to do with its commission. Yet "proof' by enumeration is the most common method of "demonstrating" the causal connection between marijuana and crime. Countless works written today rely on this method of demonstration.[13]
    In its field manual, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs requested district supervisors to obtain from state and local officials "reports in all cases... wherein crimes were committed under the influence of marihuana." To illustrate the selective process involved in this request, imagine the impressive dossier that would result from a request that reports be conveyed on anyone wearing a hat while committing a crime. A case could then be made for the criminogenic effect of hat wearing. In fact, we might very well collect not only more cases, but also even more gruesomely violent ones, since hat wearing is more common than marijuana smoking in connection with crime (as well as in conjunction with noncriminal activities).
    The enumerative method is the most primitive technique of proof. It putatively links two items causally that are, in fact, sometimes found together. No effort is made to determine whether they are actually associated in any way other than would occur by chance. We all use the enumerative method, at least to illustrate an argument. Examples often dramatically pin down a stand which we take. It is impossible to bring systematic data to bear on every point we make. However, it is surprising that in this crucial issue, long debated, little attention has been given to the rigor of the method of analysis.
    One thing that the enumerative method proves is that it is possible to commit a crime under the influence of marijuana, just as it is possible to commit crimes without marijuana. Most crimes, in fact, are committed without drugs in a normal mental and physical state; no one has yet submitted this as proof that being "normal" is criminogenic. Since we "know" that being normal doesn't induce crimes, we dismiss that argument and rightly so. But if this method of reasoning is absurd and invalid, then equally so is the attempt to link marijuana with crime by a case presentation, because both were documented in precisely the same manner. It is only because we have decided beforehand, before we have seen the evidence, that such a method of argumentation is convincing, because we have already been convinced. We search for a confirmation of our views. That marijuana causes crime makes sense—even when demonstrated by such shoddy and fallacious arguments—because we already "know" it to be true. Because our mind is already decided on the issue, we take the argument seriously. The same argument, presented in the same way, relying on the same methods, producing the same kind of evidence, taking the opposite point of view, will be rejected. Wielding evidence is only a political gambit to confirm our prejudices; we aren't too concerned about whether arguments make any sense—only that we are proven "right," however absurd the method of doing so.


    There is a basic question involved with a simple person-for-person, crime-for-crime relationship to marijuana use: Are marijuana users any more criminal than the rest of the population? Now, instead of a "sometimes" connection, which is vague and meaningless in the extreme, we have a comparison of the crime rate of one population with another. We might reason that, if users are more likely to commit crimes, the use of marijuana might very well have something to do with it. We are on firmer and more legitimate grounds, to be sure, but unfortunately, there is a considerable difference between association and causality. Two items, such as marijuana and crime, might very well be linked because of accidental reasons. In the above type of argument, we have no idea what the nature of the link actually is. In this type, we know that there is a link but we don't know if it means anything. The link might have occurred because of factors external to the two items. For instance, crime is committed most in the fifteen to twenty-five age range; marijuana is also used most by this group. If marijuana users are more often lawbreakers, it is possible that it can be accounted for simply because more users are in the most criminal age category; it might have nothing to do with the action of the drug itself.
    Blind faith in a simple descriptive association between marijuana and crime (were it to exist) would lead us to accept many related associations which are absurd a priori in a causal sense, but true descriptively. For instance, we would probably find that users of aftershave lotion are more criminal, statistically and descriptively, than those who do not use it, simply because users of aftershave lotion are men, and men are more likely to break the law than women. Does perfume inhibit crime? Users of perfume are less likely to commit crime than individuals who do not use perfume, again, simply because perfume-users are women, a group wherein crime is less likely. If this logic holds up for these universally agreed-upon innocuous substances, then it would violate the logical method to deny the same procedure to marijuana.


    We wish to know if, with all of the extraneous factors held constant—age, sex, urbanness, class background, etc.—whether marijuana smokers are any more criminal than the rest of the population. We wish to isolate out, or control, those variables that could enter into the relationship which would make it look as if an association exists, but which are actually outside the causal chain. That they contribute to the result, but have nothing intrinsically to do with the actual relationship between the two items we are interested in, means that we have a much more difficult task. We can't just look at marijuana and crime, even if we do have a reasonable comparison between the using and nonusing populations. We must also understand the nature of the composition of the two populations. People in cities have a higher crime rate than people in small towns—at least it is more often detected. This is true (at the very least) of homicide, rape, larceny, assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft.[14] It is almost universally agreed that people in cities are far more likely to smoke marijuana. Men are more criminal than women; men are more likely to smoke marijuana. This list could be expanded ad infinitum.
    Do marijuana users have a higher crime rate than nonusers? Because after we have gathered together all of the factors which could have an impact on the relationship, we would probably have more which strengthen than weaken it. What does this mean? It means that we can have an artificial relationship show up on paper, but not in the real world. The fact that men, city people, young adults, are more attracted to marijuana means that users may commit more crimes, not necessarily because marijuana has anything to do with it, but because of the accident of who it is that uses it.
    What we want to know is do male marijuana users commit more crimes (or less) than male nonusers? Do female users commit crimes any more than female nonusers? Do middle-class, male urban dwellers, ages fifteen to twenty-five who use marijuana, commit crimes more frequently than middle-class, male urban dwellers, fifteen to twenty-five, who do not smoke marijuana? (We would then have to ask the same question of females, other age groups, other class categories, and dwellers of communities of a different size.)
    We are still, of course, nowhere near the level of cause. We remain in the realm of association, but a higher level to be sure. Even after we have made this extremely complex comparison and control, we really do not know if marijuana actually "causes" crime or not. It could very well be that even after all of these extraneous factors are held constant, marijuana users are still more likely to commit crimes. And yet marijuana itself might very well have nothing to do with it. That a person is willing to try marijuana indicates something about the person, about his characteristics, his way of life, attitudes, notions of right and wrong, and so on. Marijuana users are of course, a vast and diverse tribe, but they are not identical to nonusers. They are more likely to have certain kinds of traits. Or, to put it a different way, people with certain kinds of traits are more likely to try marijuana. In a sense, some people are more predisposed to use marijuana. Now, at the same time, we cannot ignore the role of accident, propinquity, fortuitousness, ecology, location, and situational features of every description that tell us very little about the person himself. And, too, at the same time, we need not wallow about in the morass of personality theories of "ego inadequacy," "compensatory mechanisms," "adolescent rebellion," "rejection of adult authority," and so on, which obfuscate more than they clarify.
    But it is difficult to deny this fundamental fact: marijuana users are different. They are a different social animal from the nonuser, and in specific ways. It is probably permissible to say that the marijuana smoker is less attached to the legal structure than is the nonuser. He is less authoritarian, less likely to follow the rule for the rule's sake, more likely to see many laws as being unjust. He is more experimental, more adventurous, more daring, at least vis-à-vis the law. He is not as concerned about the fact of legality or illegality. He is more likely to have a code of ethics which, he feels, transcends technical law, claiming allegiance to a "higher order." We would predict that he would be more likely to break the law than nonusers. Among my respondents, I asked the broad question, "How do you feel about having broken the law?" Only five respondents (2.5 percent) said that they were bothered, that they felt guilty about breaking the law; 6 percent said that they had mixed feelings about their infractions.-The rest, 91 percent of the sample, said that it didn't bother them, that they didn't think about it, that they didn't consider it against the law (i.e., in their own personal creed), that it was a stupid law and ought to be ignored, etc.[15] The simple fact of "obeying the law," in and of itself, meant little or nothing, apparently, to most of them.
    Now, many will condemn this point of view; some will applaud it. The psychologically inclined will see in it the germ of a self-destructive motive. Others will take it as proof that users are thrill and kicks oriented. Believers in the "letter of the law" will castigate defenders of its "spirit" will withhold judgment. Regardless of our feelings concerning the less strict adherence to the rule of law and authority among marijuana users, the fact remains, this is likely to predispose them toward a higher crime rate, other things being equal.
    It is entirely possible, then, that marijuana smokers are more criminal than their nonusing peers, even for the same age, sex, social class and educational groups, etc. It is possible that they are more "predisposed" toward crime. The fact that they are willing to break the marijuana laws might very well be an indication of their willingness to break laws in general. (In a moment, we will qualify this and explain which laws are more likely to be broken.) Yet, this would be true of any example of lawbreaking we select and may very well have little or nothing to do with the drug that they use. Suppose we ask the question: Are underage drinkers more likely to commit crimes than their peers who don't drink? Or is someone who engages in premarital intercourse (in states which have a law against it) more likely to engage in other illegal activities, on the whole, than someone who does not? My answer would have to be, probably. Not so much because of the nature of the activity, but because such breaches probably are a rough indicator of a greater willingness to deviate from the letter of the law, to be less concerned with public disapproval (or to accept deviant peer definitions of what is "right"), to explore the somewhat remote, to move away from parental and community standards. It could even be that not to partake in such activities indicates more about the abstainer than doing so does. That is, by now, premarital intercourse has become a "subterranean" norm among the young. Thus, the person who does not engage in sexual intercourse before marriage is likely to be more authoritarian, more religious, more tied to the conventional normative structure, less willing to stray from the well-known, the familiar, and to have great respect for rules. And, of course, less likely to commit crimes of any sort.
    Now, what does our analysis tell us about the criminal effect of marijuana? Nothing really. We can know definitively that users are more likely to commit crimes than their age, sex, etc., cohorts, and yet know absolutely nothing about whether marijuana itself has anything to do with crime. (Any more than premarital sex does.) For this kind of statement, we have to move our analysis up to another level of sophistication.


    Marijuana is often cited as an agent, or a catalyst, in the commission of crimes, without raising the issue as to whether it is actually a direct cause. It is often attributed with an indirect role in the breach of laws. Thus, such an argument might be crystallized in the following kinds of questions: If those who now smoke had never smoked marijuana, would their crime rate be lower? Here we are moving closer to true cause. A comparison with heroin might prove to be instructive. Heroin itself doesn't cause crime—the drug, that is, doesn't induce a state of body and mind which induces violence and crime in those who take it—otherwise physician-narcotic addicts, whose drug of choice, meperidine (sometimes morphine), has effects similar to those of heroin, would be just as "criminal" as street junkies. But no one doubts that heroin is densely implicated in crime. Heroin itself has a soothing, soporific effect; if we knew nothing about the kinds of people who used the drug, we would predict that the drug would tend to reduce the likelihood of committing a crime. We would be right about the causal effect of the drug, but wrong about its indirect effect, and therefore, wrong about the actual crime rates of heroin users. The notion that marijuana "causes" crime could mean many different things, some of which would be acceptable by one definition, but not another, and vice versa. For instance, a pharmacologist is likely to have a very strict definition of cause; he is talking about the physiological action of the drug. A policeman would have a broader definition, since he wants to know whether or not, if there were no marijuana, the crime rate would go down. Thus, a pharmacologist would say that heroin does not "cause" crime, but a policeman would say that it does. It is not that one is wrong and the other right, they just have a different concept of what constitutes cause.
    This type of argument assumes a number of guises. There are at least two subvarieties of the "indirect" or "pseudocausal" kind of connection between marijuana and crime. The one most acceptable to sociologists, at least theoretically, is a version of the "differential association" theory. By smoking marijuana, one is, willy-nilly, forced into intimate personal association with "real" criminals. In order to buy marijuana, it is necessary to interact with others who habitually break the law. Over time, the user, who was not criminal to begin with, has acquired a set of criminal associates and friends; one becomes implicated in a lawbreaking environment. Gradually, one comes to think of breaking the law as acceptable, and eventually leads a "criminal" life.
... The youthful narcotics user, even one who "takes a trip" only sporadically, is almost certain to make contact with some part of the criminal community that inevitably evolves around traffic in illegal merchandise. The boy or girl smoking marijuana in high school, for example, isn't just running the physiological and psychological risks, whatever they may be, attendant upon using the drug. There's the much greater risk of becoming inextricably tangled in an environment where regular criminal behavior is the accepted norm.
    The prospects are particularly alarming for that large segment of the nation's juvenile society already stamped "delinquent" because of its wayward conduct. The potential in these young people's lives for serious encounters with the law is greatly intensified when they turn to narcotics; they've paid some of their dues to the criminal community. And it is in this group of youth that patterns of narcotics use develop earliest and become most firmly fixed.[16]

    Another variety of the indirect relationship between marijuana and crime that is often invoked is that "one crime begets another," theme. By seeing that it is possible to get away with breaking the law, one becomes emboldened and goes on to other, more serious crimes. Marijuana use initiates the user into a "morass" of lawbreaking. The habit has a way of spreading. Eventually all laws become equally breakable, equally irrelevant. If drug laws do not command one's respect and compliance, then, eventually, no law does. (But, if the marijuana laws did not exist, then neither would this problem nor the escalation.) A difficulty with this point of view empirically is the fact that marijuana users who do not become arrested for marijuana use are probably less likely to commit other crimes later on, and eventually become arrested for them. Users who are arrested on marijuana charges are probably more likely to become arrested later on for something else more serious. Unless these facts are explained, the "emboldened" arguments will have to be revised.


    The question here is: Does the pharmacological action of marijuana directly incite criminal and violent acts? An empirical test of this proposition is extremely difficult. In fact, there are few adequately controlled studies on the general effects of marijuana, none of which touch on crime or violence. A test of this sort in connection with crime is at least twenty years distant. Moreover, no chemical dictates to the human body so complex a behavior-syndrome as crime (or even violence). The organs of the human body may be affected by a chemical in a specific way—or more commonly, in a variety of ways—but what the mind tells the body to do as a result is not a chemical matter. The chemical imperative becomes filtered through an individual's personality, and his group's collective experiences, and his behavior is affected by them. The group translates what these vague bodily sensations mean, and what kinds of activities they may represent behaviorally. A drug may offer a bodily and behavioral potential for crime and violence, but it cannot dictate or determine that they will inevitably take place. Other elements must be present. Even Bloomquist admits that marijuana's positive impact on the commission of crime is partly dependent on whether or not the individual in question has "criminal tendencies," whatever that might mean.
    In one of the more widely circulated works putting forth the claim of marijuana's crime-inducing effects, the following mechanisms are asserted as the "cause" of the crimes: "(1) use by criminals to fortify their courage prior to committing crimes; (2) chronic use resulting in general derangement and demoralization; (3) use resulting in the lowering of inhibition and bringing out suppressed criminal tendencies; and (4) use resulting in panic, confusion or anger induced in otherwise normal persons who have not been previous users." Let us examine some of these undocumented claims.
    One of the more direct criminogenic effects claimed for marijuana has to do with the generation of courage in the commission of crimes. Many criminals supposedly use marijuana as a means of either becoming relaxed or hopped up—depending on who is offering this theory and his image of what marijuana does.
    The claim is that it is the professional criminals who consciously employ the drug to commit crimes more effectively. If it is true that marijuana is used to become hopped up and to more quickly throw oneself into a kind of frenzied, maniacal state, this would obviously lower one's rational ability to commit crimes competently with a minimum of risk. Most professional crimes require stealth, skill, deftness, and controlled courage. It would seem peculiar indeed that the criminal would employ an agent that is reputed by those who attribute the criminal with employing it to have both an unreliable and a kind of exciting, even deranging effect. If this is one of the many consequences of smoking marijuana, professional criminals would be among the last people on earth who would use the drug in conjunction with their "work." In my research, I have found strong indications that this supposed "hopping up" effect of marijuana is simply a myth.
    The other accusation (a mirror image, completely contradicting the first) is that the criminal uses pot to gain "controlled courage." Supposedly marijuana will be used by the lawbreaker on the verge of carrying out his crime because the drug has a calming effect; it reduces his panicky, irrational tendencies. It lowers his chances of "blowing" a job. It makes him cool and rational. If this is what happens (and it is closer to reality than the first claim), then marijuana's effect is anything but criminogenic. It could help to calm nerves in any situation; it could aid rationality under all crisis conditions. It could aid the racing car driver, the nervous student taking an exam, the job interviewee, the adolescent on his first date, the stage-struck actor. If it is the generation of a rational courage that gives marijuana its criminal thrust, then we discover that this effect has nothing specifically to do with crime. Criminals wear shoes, drive to the site of their crimes in cars, communicate with one another by means of the English language, but no one has thought of outlawing these crime-related agents.
    Marijuana is said to "lower inhibitions." This leads to the commission of crime. It is taken for granted in a civilization that does not trust its innermost self that the lowering of inhibitions (or the loss of control) will necessarily have a violent and criminal countenance. Man, the theory goes, is protected from his animal nature by a thin veneer of culture; when this veneer is pierced or weakened, he becomes destructive. Man's inner being is savage, primitive, and inherently antisocial. This model of man, given its greatest impetus by Freud, had influenced popular criminology for almost a century. It is completely inadequate to explain anything, and blatantly false as a description of man and what makes him tick.
    I will conclude this topic by asking a set of questions that any theory of lawbreaking must answer, which cast doubt on the theory of the lowering of inhibitions as a cause of crime (and as a reason why marijuana, specifically, is inherently criminogenic). No one has adequately explained why or how it is that a "loss of control" or a "release of inhibitions" will necessarily—or ever—result in violent crimes, or crimes of any sort. Why violence? Why crime? Why, if man becomes less inhibited, does he do harm to his fellow man? Is the internal life of man intrinsically antisocial? Do we really have such a gloomy image of who man "really" is, what he "really" wants to do? Are man's most fundamental and well-hidden desires really of such a destructive nature? How are these desires generated? Are they intrinsic in the nature of man? Or are they socially generated? Or do they exist at all? Why isn't man's internal life more creative, more directed toward the good of society (however that might be interpreted)? What, specifically, is the mechanism that translates a "loss of control" into acts of violence and crime? Could it be that man fears doing charitable acts toward his fellow man because he will be thought a dupe and a fool? Perhaps any "liberating" mechanism will bring out these philanthropic tendencies. Are charitable acts rewarded in our society? Perhaps "inhibitions" serve to restrain man from being generous and socially constructive. Are acts of creativity and imagination rewarded by us? Perhaps a release of inhibitions really serves to bring out man's inner being—which is more creative, not more violent, than is apparent in public. (The Timothy Leary camp, too, asserts that the psychedelic drugs release inhibitions, but their image of man's essential being is different from the antipot lobby's.)
    The "fact" that marijuana releases inhibitions and, therefore, is criminogenic, is a common accusation. But it is built on a theory and an image of man that is essentially outdated today. There is no evidence to support the contention that man, disinhibited, is any more dangerous than man with his protective cultural shield around him. He who makes the accusation assumes automatically that inhibitions are a wholesome and protective device that no society can do without. Man, after all, the theory goes, is essentially evil. Therefore inhibitions are good, because they restrain man's essential nature. This is an assumption that many informed students of man are not willing to make. Before we can take seriously the accusation that marijuana releases inhibitions and therefore causes man to be violent, we will have to clear up [17] the validity of many fundamental and essential theoretical questions which remain, at this time, speculative and unfounded.
    Consider that the great majority of the most widespread and devastating violence in the world's history has stemmed not from aggressiveness, but from passivity and compliance. Most of the fighting personnel of nearly all armies of the modern world has been made up of only semiwilling young men who, basically, do not wish to kill or be killed, but who fear the social reprisals attendant upon their refusal to fight. The passive reaction is to go along with acceptable social definitions and pressures (often from those who do not themselves have to make such a decision) and commit acts of violence on one's fellow man. The aggressive and self-assertive reactions are to refuse to fight and kill in warfare. Thus, acceptable social and cultural responses, that thin layer of protective civilization, supposedly keeping man's destructive impulses in check, often lead to violence, while to be "released from inhibitions" sometimes means to be nonviolent. Often, by following one's inner bent, one's selfish desires, removed from society's pressures, one is less violent and less destructive.
    The final accusation concerning marijuana's criminogenic impact has to do with "panic reactions." Marijuana causes crime, especially violence, because the drug has a psychotomimetic effect that deranges the mind, causing the user to run amok, wreaking incalculable damage to his fellow man. I have never seen a reaction of this type, and a number of physicians who specialize in psychoactive drugs have never seen it either with marijuana. (This does not mean that they do not exist; it probably means, however, that they are rare.) Panic reactions are more common with some other drugs, LSD, for instance. During the interviewing I gained the confidence of a number of users to such an extent that two called me while they were experiencing such a panic state under the influence of LSD. It took no psychiatrist to see that the reaction was fear and helplessness, not violence. The drug panic state is more generative of passive fright, withdrawn incapacity—a desire to flee threats and danger from others. If this occurs with any frequency with marijuana (I have never seen evidence that it does), it is without a doubt not a cause for violence and crime among users. We will have to search elsewhere for marijuana's criminogenics.


Studies and Surveys

    We commonly read that a "study" has "proven" a causal connection between marijuana use and crime, particularly violent crime. Giordano, the former Associate Director of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, wrote as follows: "The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs recently conducted its own study. It revealed a definite pattern between marihuana usage and crime. City and state police agencies were surveyed to gather and assemble a volume of well-documented instances where criminal behavior was directly related to the use of marihuana."[18]
    As no statistics were cited in this particular article wherein the claim was made—only isolated cases were enumerated—I wrote to the Bureau of Narcotics asking about this "study." Louise G. Richards, research social psychologist for the Division of Drug Sciences of the Bureau, replied: "The study mentioned by Mr. Giordano... was not a research project of this Division. I have never seen it referred to except in the cited article. As far as I know, it did not result in either a published or an unpublished report" (personal communication, June 3, 1969). In fact, no such systematic study was actually done by the Bureau—nor has there ever been a study that adequately and definitively demonstrated the reputed link between marijuana and crime. Systematic data have never been brought to bear on the question.
    In 1968 (no date appears on the publication), the Los Angeles Police Department distributed a pamphlet, "Facts About Marijuana," which included sections entitled, "Does Marijuana Incite Crimes of Violence?" and "Marijuana Crimes." The latter enumerated fourteen cases where marijuana was presumed to have been causal in the commission of crimes. It contains the introductory remarks: "In 1966 the Los Angeles Police Department conducted a survey into the relationship between marijuana and criminal behavior. Hundreds of cases were documented during a one-year period in which marijuana was involved as a factor of criminal behavior. The next several pages contain a few criminal cases selected from the survey to illustrate this relationship."[19]
    I wrote to the Los Angeles Police Department about this study made on the relationship between marijuana and criminal behavior. I received a reply from Clifford J. Shannon, Captain, and Commander of the LAPD's Public Affairs Division, which stated: "All available information from the 1966 survey on the relationship between marijuana and criminal behavior is contained in... the Los Angeles Police Department booklet, 'Facts About Marijuana.' The survey has not been published as a separate document." In other words, what was called a "survey" and a "study" was the collection of scattered cases wherein marijuana was supposedly connected in some way or another with the commission of crime. Needless to say, as a descriptive or scientific document, this "survey" is worthless. All "studies" which claim to establish the causal link, upon close scrutiny, simply do not observe even the most elementary rules of rigorous empirical proof. All the restrictions of logic and adequate documentation seem to be magically dissolved when it comes to this question; emotion, rather than disinterested inquiry, reigns supreme. The "proofs" which have been submitted on this issue are perfect illustrations of our earlier axiom concerning the need to shore up propaganda with pseudoscientific accoutrements. Probably no area of endeavor better illustrates our principle concerning the "politics of reality" than this, the connection between marijuana and crime. The causal connection between marijuana and crime exists only in the minds of men. Paper, as Stalin so cynically observed—and, indeed, put into practice—can be made to print anything.
    The studies most often cited to prove that marijuana causes crime are those by Munch ("Marihuana and Crime"), Wolff (Marihuana in Latin America), Gardikas ("Hashish and Crime"), an unpublished manuscript by Victor Vogel, and several works by the Indian Chopras. We will examine these reports.
    Half of Munch's eight-page article on marijuana and crime[20] is taken up with enumeration of crimes committed, supposedly, under the influence of marijuana. ( Or so the caption indicates. There is no indication of how the police detected marijuana intoxication. During the entire period when all of the enumerated crimes were committed, there was no known method for detecting the presence of marijuana in the human body. In some of the cases, clues were mentioned, but most of them omit references to the drug.) Sixty-nine cases are included, going back to the 1930S (in one case, back to 1921, before the existence of marijuana laws). A typical case might be "Smoked marijuana for years; held up three taxi-cabs," or "Negro, shot and killed while attempting to holdup grocer in Harlem; plea guilty." Only a glance back at the discussion of the enumerative method of reasoning illuminates the worth of this procedure.
    Another section of Munch's article is an enumeration of "references" which lists works, most of which assert the connection between marijuana and crime without empirical documentation. A table presents, supposedly, effects of marijuana on the human mind and body. Several of these effects have been empirically demonstrated to be false: hypoglycemia (decrease in blood sugar), a decrease in the rate of respiration, and mydriasis (marked dilation of the pupils), for instance. Other effects are merely asserted and are, by all known accounts, highly improbable: "chronic exposure produces brain lesions," "death by cardiac failure some individuals after l00 to 200 times therapeutic dose,"[21] "hypersensitivity sensation of ants running over skin" (not one of my 200 respondents described this particular sensation), "diarrhea or constipation," etc. One wonders, after this inventory of effects, why anyone would ever try the drug; if one believed that these effects ever took place, the fact that millions of people in this country have tried it would be puzzling.
    Another study commonly cited by police in an effort to demonstrate the criminal tendencies inherent in marijuana is Pablo Osvaldo Wolff's Marihuana in Latin America: The Threat It Constitutes.[22] Although this opus was published over two decades ago, it is still cited with approval by the antimarijuana propagandists. Rather than a study, it is another enumeration of crimes supposedly caused by marijuana, along with extravagant declarations as to marijuana's baleful effect: "With every reason, marihuana... has been closely associated since the most remote time with insanity, with crime, with violence, and with brutality." Again, one searches in vain for a systematic analysis of the criminogenic effect of this supposedly deadly drug. Instead, we are greeted with a barrage of rumor, distortions, blatant falsehoods, and dogmatic assertions. Although we have been assured by Anslinger in the foreword that the author is "impartial," and the monograph, "painstaking... erudite, well-documented ... comprehensive... accurate... extensive... well-rounded ... convincing," we are perplexed by the bombastic and otiose language which casts considerable doubt on its author as a reliable, impartial observer. We are assured that "this weed... changes thousands of persons into nothing more than human scum," and that "this vice... should be suppressed at any cost." Marijuana is labeled "weed of the brutal crime and of the burning hell," an "exterminating demon which is now attacking our country"; users are referred to as "addicts" (passim) whose "motive belongs to a strain which is pure viciousness."[23]
    Wolff's work should be considered a relic of a benighted age, but it is taken seriously today by those who require confirmation of the dangers of this drug, as well as for the fact that this slim volume has provided a fertile seedbed of concepts, ideas, and distinctions which are very much alive today. Although it will be the job of later intellectual historians to trace the elaborate interconnections and influences of today's drug ideologists, both pro and con, many antecedents (on the contra side) may be discerned in Pablo Osvaldo Wolff; some may not have originated with him, but he gave them all propulsion. For instance, this work is very clear on the distinction between "an addiction in the classic sense of morphinism" and what Wolff (and physicians today) call "psychic addiction," or "habituation."[24] Needless to say, this distinction is crucial in today's medical writings; the similarity between the two use-syndromes is emphasized rather than their differences. (See the chapter on the physician's point of view toward marijuana for an elaboration of this distinction.) Second, Wolff distinctly presaged another dominant current theme:
... the use of marihuana is always an abuse and a vice in the strictest sense of the word. So far as this drug is concerned, there is no medical indication whatsoever that will justify its use in the present day and age.... at the present time there is no scientific therapeutic indication whatever still recognized in which cannabis has any part.... marijuana...has no sublime characteristics, but only inflicts blows upon its addicts, renders them depraved, degrades them physically and morally. I repeat my initial warning there is not, as is the case with the opiates, any reason, any excuse, any indication for its use. It is always abuse, dangerous to the individual and to the race.[25]

    This definition of "abuse" forms the cornerstone of contemporary medical thinking concerning intoxicating drugs, especially marijuana. Aside from these two powerful and much used concepts, the evidence of Wolff's handiwork may be seen in dozens of conceptual and supposedly factual edifices. "All civilized countries have included in their protective legislation a prohibition of the use of cannabis for enjoyment purposes...[26] Wolff intones; the echo of this pontification is heard today: "... why is it that marijuana is the only drug that is outlawed in every civilized country in the world?"[27] (It is difficult to fathom what is meant by "civilized," however; America, it is to be assumed, is civilized, while less enlightened countries are not.) Wolff's assertion that marijuana, with prolonged and "excessive" use, tends to produce an "irreparable brain lesion"[28] has its contemporary reverberation today in Munch's "chronic exposure produces brain lesions."[29] Naturally, we find in Wolff that marijuana influences violence, as for example, in the followers of Hasan and Pancho Villa; produces automobile accidents ("especially of buses"!); incites the "aggressive instinct"; activates "delinquency and criminality"; causes "episodic states of mental confusion, psychoses of short duration..., and chronic prolonged psychoses"; marijuana, we are told, is especially dangerous because "the effect that will be produced on each individual cannot be foreseen," and because the drug seems to stimulate a proselytization among its habitués.[30] In short, the complete antimarijuana propagandist's litany is present, intact, in Wolff. Many of us have learned nothing in the past generation.
    Law-enforcement officers in an effort to document the criminogenic impact of marijuana also cite Victor H. Vogel's "Excerpts from Statements Regarding Marihuana Use Made by One-Hundred Consecutive Heroin Addicts Interviewed by Dr. Victor H. Vogel at the California Rehabilitation Center During Release Hearings Beginning August 18, 1967." It is an unpublished manuscript of six pages containing a collection of statements by 100 addicts in one or two-sentence form, statements such as: "We used to get into gang fights when we were high on marihuana"; "Makes me silly; everything I do or say or hear is funny"; "It exaggerates all feelings, including sex"; "It slowed me down so much I had to drop out of school."[31]
    Since these statements were made before a release hearing, it is apparent that the addict knew that any indication of remorse on his part would be judged favorably, and would, therefore, make statements which he knew would help to secure his release. This alone makes these statements suspect. We would expect statements of conventional morality under these circumstances, expressions the judge wanted to hear. In a sense, then, these statements make up a kind of miniature morality play, where we learn not so much the nature of reality, but what the society staging it thinks about the nature of reality. Any addict knows that he will be treated more leniently if he expresses a conventional view of the dangers of marijuana, so that his statements correspond more to his perceptions of what the judge wants to hear rather than what the drug actually did for or to him.
    In addition, heroin addicts are extremely atypical marijuana users. They are far more criminal than any other single group of drug users. The kind of person who becomes an addict is likely to have had committed a number of crimes (although addiction, obviously, increases their seriousness and extent) and therefore to have smoked marijuana at some time or another during the commission of a given crime. But this tells us nothing about whether marijuana had anything to do with the crime committed. It certainly tells us nothing about the effects of marijuana on crime, in general, on the nonaddict population. These statements simply do not apply beyond the addict population who uttered them.
    It seems peculiar that antimarijuana ideologists will accept the statements of addicts in a situation where it is to their advantage to present the criminogenic argument, and will reject the statements of marijuana smokers made in a situation where no such advantage accrues to them. Nonincarcerated marijuana users, when interviewed in their living room by a stranger they will never see again, are far more likely to express a favorable view of the effects of the drug and to deny most of its negative effects. Their motives for lying are certainly far less powerful than those which faced Vogel's addicts.
    In an effort to forge a link between crime and marijuana, some commentators have used the research of the Chopras, three physicians who have written on cannabis use in India for over thirty years. To use the Chopras in support of the criminal impact of this drug, one must be extremely selective, because they not only underplay this aspect, they often deny it altogether. Bloomquist, Miller, Munch, and Haslip,[32] all cite the Chopras' research as confirming marijuana's criminogenic effect. Most of these quotes use the statement that sometimes users are subject to "fits of aggressive mania." Yet the Chopras' most recent statement, largely a summary of their previous work, asserts that, "With regard to premeditated crime, in some cases, the drugs [bhang, ganja and charas] not only do not lead to it, but actually act as deterrents. One of the most important actions of cannabis is to quiet and stupefy the individual so that there is no tendency to violence..."[33] A Canadian physician, H. B. M. Murphy, is quoted by Chopra as a summary on marijuana and crime, saying, "Most serious observers agree that cannabis does not, per se, induce aggressive or criminal activities, and that the reduction of the work drive leads to a negative correlation with criminality rather than a positive one."[34] The Chopras seem to provide thin fodder for the argument of the criminal inducement of cannabis.
    The same cannot be said for the work of Gardikas ("Hashish and Crime").[35] A police officer and head of the Greek Criminal Service in Athens, Gardikas reviewed 379 cases of individuals who were arrested for publicly using cannabis between 1919 and 1950. In the sample, 117 cases were first arrested for cannabis offenses and, after their release, became "confirmed criminals," having been arrested for a total of 420 offenses in the period studied. The fact that they became criminal only after their involvement with hashish demonstrates to Gardikas as well as to law enforcement officers and to various other commentators that hashish causes crime. Over 200 cases in the sample were already criminal prior to starting the use of hashish, and the remaining fifty-three, after their arrest for cannabis, did not commit any nonhashish crimes later.
    We are not told how these cases were selected. Are they the only cannabis offense cases that came to Gardikas' attention? Were they gathered more or less by accident? Were they a result of random selection? Or were they selected for the very fact that their crime rate was so high? We have no way of knowing. And what social universe does this group represent: All hashish smokers in Greece? Not having this information, the methodology seems dubious.
    It is a certainty that arrested cannabis smokers are different from nonarrested ones, just as arrested violators of any law are radically different from those who also commit the same crimes, but who do not get arrested. The class factor operates here powerfully, just to mention a single source of variation. The middle-class violator is far more able to avoid detection through a combination of bias and caution, as well as a number of other factors, such as police saturation in poorer areas. Working-class patterns of crime, particularly certain kinds of crime, such as violent ones, are very different from those of the middle-class user. To use arrested hashish smokers as an indication of the criminal potential inherent in the drug is fallacious.
    Also, it might very well be necessary to raise the question of the criminogenic effect of the Greek penal system. Anyone arrested once becomes subject to greater scrutiny, and therefore, almost of necessity, his crime rate will be higher. The police simply "being around" accounts for much of the differential in crime rates. A crime undetected is, from an official point of view, a crime uncommitted. In addition, many criminologists think that having been exposed to prison gives a person criminal tendencies.[36] Prisons are the most effective spawning grounds of criminals known to man. Anyone who has served some time in prison is more likely to come out a potential professional criminal than he is to be "rehabilitated."
    In addition, Gardikas assumes that the crimes for which the 117 offenders were arrested were the result of having been involved with hashish, since they followed the hashish arrest. This is a good example of the post hoc fallacy. We have no idea why these 420 offenses were committed, let alone can we be sure that they were caused by the hashish. Nor do we know that the arrested individuals were not involved in a life of crime before the hashish arrest. Merely because they had not been arrested until then is no indication that they did not commit nonhashish crimes. They might very well have been criminals all along and picked up hashish along the way, and been merely unfortunate enough to get arrested first for the hashish.
    All we really know from the Gardikas study is that arrested hashish smokers are involved in a good deal of crime. We have no idea whether hashish "causes" the violations, or was associated with them in any way. We know nothing about whether the nonarrested smoker is also as criminal, or whether he ever commits crimes. We do not know how representative the sample even is of arrested users, let alone users in general. As a demonstration of the criminogenic effect of cannabis, this study is of extremely dubious value at best.


Our Two Hundred Interviews

    In our interview study, we asked the respondents to enumerate any and all arrests which they might have experienced. It is almost impossible to make a systematic, rigorous, and meaningful comparison with the general population with the aim of determining whether marijuana users are "more criminal" or "less criminal" than nonusers. Our sample is not representative. (But no sample of lawbreakers ever is a true cross-section.) It is a different average age than the American population—a median of twenty-two as opposed to twenty-seven, with almost no very young or very old. It is entirely urban—nearly all reside in New York City. It is more middle-class than the nation as a whole. We know that all of the sample, to be included in the study, have engaged in criminal behavior—marijuana use, possession, and sale—and on that basis alone, be expected to be arrested more times than the average member of American society. We might isolate out at least a dozen such factors which make the two "populations" incomparable. Some of these factors would tend to inflate our sample's lawbreaking tendencies, while others might decrease them. Taken together, the methodological problems with such a comparison are insurmountable, if we wish to test this question scrupulously and definitively.
    However, if we wish to use our sample's arrest data as a very loose indication of their degree of criminal involvement and make a casual comparison with the overall arrest figures for the United States, not as an attempt at a conclusive demonstration, but as a crude approximation which at least poses this question, then perhaps light might be shed on the issue. One qualification we must keep in mind concerns the adequacy of arrest figures to measure criminal activity. Recall that all of the marijuana-related activity of our sample resulted in a total of only nine marijuana arrests. Most of these were the consequence of an accident of some sort. Thus, people who are not arrested are not necessarily noncriminal but often merely lucky or evasive enough to be undetected. Is the nonapprehended population less criminal than the arrestees? We have no way of knowing. We do know that nonarrestees commit a very large number of crimes. Of course, it varies by the nature of the crime; murder is very often detected, and the offender arrested, while crimes without victims usually go undetected.
    At any rate, our 204 respondents admitted arrest a total of fifty-five times, for all nontraffic, nonmarijuana offenses. As a parallel, keep in mind that in 1965, the arrest rate for the American population was 3.7 arrests per 100 in the population.[37] One difficulty we have in comparing these two figures is that our figure is the number of arrests which ever took place, while the U.S. figure is the recorded rate for that one year only. Since the median age of our respondents is twenty-two, let us assume that the age range during which an arrest is possible and likely is seven years—age fifteen to twenty-two, even though the earliest arrest in our sample took place at age ten. Therefore, we might divide the fifty-five arrests figure by seven, yielding a yearly rate of about 3.9 arrests per 100 individuals. (Even if we include the nine marijuana arrests, the figure is 4.5 per 100.) The fact that this is almost identical with the national rate is surprising.
    If we examine the types of crimes our respondents were arrested for, however, we find ourselves looking at a pattern totally unlike the national picture. Drunkeness accounts for by far the most arrests nationally; in fact one-third of all the arrests recorded in the United States in 1965 were for the single infraction of public drunkenness. Disorderly conduct, a vague rubric, garnered about a tenth of all arrests. Larceny, driving under the influence of alcohol, simple assault, burglary, violation of the liquor laws, vagrancy, gambling, and motor vehicle theft, constituted the eight next most frequent offenses.[38] No single crime among my respondents on the other hand attracted more than a few scattered arrests, except for participation in political demonstrations. Over a third of their arrests (nineteen out of fifty-five) were for protesting, picketing, or demonstrating—nonviolently. We only reveal our political biases if we conceive of these "crimes" as criminal in the conventional sense. If we wish to hold that by smoking marijuana, our sense of ideological involvement will be heightened, we will please the proclivities of the marijuana-smoking subculture, and probably proponents of the "far right" as well, who oppose both marijuana and political demonstrations. But to call this activity a crime in any but the formal sense makes us a part of the ideological machinery which structures the "politics of reality" by giving a discrediting label to anything that opposes its definition of the truth.
    If we search the remaining arrests, a few do not fall within our conception of a "conventional" crime. One interviewee, an artist, dancer, jewelry designer, and mime performer, was arrested for wearing a painted mime face, illegal under an obscure local ordinance. Thus, a "crime" was committed, and an arrest made. Can we say, therefore, that the marijuana subculture had anything to do with this particular respondent's "criminal tendencies"? Twelve of the fifty-five arrests took place before the respondent was "turned on" to marijuana. (A policeman scrutinizing this would conclude that it is a "criminal type" who eventually turns to drugs.)
    In view of the police supposition that marijuana causes crime, particularly crimes of violence, it might be instructive to look at the relationship, if any, that exists between the rate of crime and the amount of marijuana the respondent smokes. The reasoning would be that, if it is true that the drug stimulates a physical and mental state which is dangerous and criminogenic, then the more the person experiences this state, the greater his likelihood of committing crimes, and the greater his chances of being arrested. We would expect the daily smoker, who is high from two to possibly eighteen hours every day, highly likely to be arrested, because he is in a "criminal" state of mind for such long periods of time. To test this proposition (an informal test, neither rigorous nor conclusive) we excluded all the "political" crimes (arrests for nonviolent demonstrations). (Interestingly enough, these were by far most common among the least frequent smokers, and least common among the most frequent smokers.) We are then left with twenty-one arrests for "serious" crimes committed by fifteen respondents. These crimes include nonmarijuana narcotics possession, disorderly conduct, drunkenness, burglary, assault, auto theft, serving liquor to a minor, and larceny. Do heavy marijuana smokers commit these crimes more frequently than infrequent smokers? We are surprised to discover that according to our study, they do not commit crimes any more frequently. Furthermore, there appears to be no relationship whatsoever between the amount the respondent smokes and his likelihood of arrest. Three of our daily smokers had been arrested for "serious" crimes; three of those who smoked three to six times a week were arrested for these crimes; three of our one to two times weekly smokers were so arrested, three of the respondents who smoked one to four times monthly were arrested, and three of the less than monthly users were arrested for these crimes. Although these numbers are extremely small, the fact of their perfect dispersal is perhaps indicative of the lack of a crime-inducing effect of the drug. It is, at any rate, a proposition which ought to be tested more systematically in the future with more complete data. For the moment, there are indications that point to the fact that the marijuana smoker is no more criminal than the rest of the population.


A Note on the Sociology of Crime

    The typical smoker's attitude toward the law cannot be thought of simply as a general "disrespect for law," that is, any and all laws. Law is not thought of as evil by users simply because it is law. Certain laws are thought of as good and others as evil. Obviously, the marijuana laws are rejected as unjust. (Among our respondents, 95 percent wanted to do away with the marijuana laws.) But simply because "the law is the law" does not make it just. There is a selectivity accorded to laws. Therefore, this inclination toward greater deviance in general actually predisposes users to disobey only certain laws. Users do not question the justice of many laws, particularly laws connected with violence—armed robbery, rape, mayhem, murder, assault. Others of a political character will be more readily rejected. As I pointed out, my interviewees were far more likely to commit and be arrested for crimes connected with political demonstrations than any other type of crime. Marijuana users are also probably more likely to commit sex crimes than nonusers. Not sex crimes connected with violence or coercion, such as rape, child molestation, or exhibitionism; probably not even sexual crimes that result in arrest. But many sexual activities are criminal: fellatio, cunnilingus, premarital intercourse, adultery, pornography, abortion, sodomy, homosexuality. There is no doubt in my mind that users are far more likely to commit these "harmless" sex crimes than nonusers. Their greater willingness to deviate, to experiment, to disregard conventional sexual mores, probably indicates a more general unconcern for norms that, they think, are obsolete.
    The word "criminal" conjures up in the mind a definite stereotype. When we think of crime, we generally think of violent crimes. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that marijuana users probably commit violent crimes no more than, and possibly less than, the population at large. But violent crimes are only a small fraction of all crimes. Many activities have become criminalized. The designation "criminal" is social, not legal. A person who has technically breached the law is technically a "criminal." Yet society has decided which of these breaches will qualify its transgressor for the title of criminal, and which will not. Our conception of what is criminal is not governed by the laws, but by the norms.
    The conventionally inclined will bridle at the thought of the tendency of so many marijuana users picking and choosing which laws they will obey and which they will ignore. Actually, we all do this. We are all lawbreakers in one way or another. The landlord with inspection violations, the dubious and illegal business practices of many ghetto merchants, the monopolistic and price-fixing tendencies of some large corporations, the employer who pays wages under the minimum wage—all are breaking the law (although these laws are not generally covered by the umbrella of "criminal" law). But when we think of "law and order," we do not include these infractions; we think of them merely as sharp business practices. The policeman who uses illegal and overly violent methods to arrest a suspect [39] is violating the law, but our very selective perception of this phenomenon—what is law and order, and what is illegal and disorderly—excludes the violent policeman. If any of the perpetrators of such acts is ever prosecuted for their infractions and actually serves a prison sentence—such as happened with General Electric's executives a few years ago—many of us are outraged, because the price-fixing executive does not conform to our stereotype of a criminal and his crime does not fit our notion of what crime is.
    Thus, in the strict sense, the question of the greater "criminal" activity of marijuana users is meaningless. Crime is not a unitary phenomenon. We would not expect anything to have a systematic relationship with all kinds of crime, since some types of crime will be found to vary inversely with other types. For instance, violators of price-fixing statutes will certainly have a lower crime rate compared with other types of crime—violent crime, for instance—than the population at large.
    Thus, it is impossible to give a meaningful answer to the simple question as to the greater criminality of marijuana smokers, because the concept of crime is so vague. It would, of course, be possible to devise an overall crime rate for both groups, or for user and nonuser matched samples. But such a figure would not be very useful or indicative of anything in general; because in order to answer the question intelligibly, it would be necessary to know the reasons for which the question was asked. Crimes vary in nature. What is it that we are trying to determine by asking the question? The overall fact of having technically breached this or that law? This might be useful for propaganda purposes—to say that users are a highly "criminal" population, if that is true, in order to cast doubt on them, as well as on the use of marijuana—but not if we are trying to understand the nature of society and what makes it work as it does. At the very least, we would have to separate out the various kinds of crimes which we are interested in.
    * I would like to thank Professor John Kaplan for giving me the idea for writing this chapter, which is heavily indebted to his "Marijuana and Aggression," a chapter in Marijuana: The New Prohibition, forthcoming. (back)



    1. Earle Albert Rowell and Robert Rowell, On the Trail of Marihuana: The Weed of Madness (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1939), pp. 13, 46,48, 67. (back)
    2. We must keep in mind the fact that possession of marijuana is itself a crime, so that by definition any marijuana user is a "criminal." Obviously, we must exclude marijuana use from our concept of crime, otherwise our discussion would be a tautology—it would be true by definition. Thus, when we refer to crime, we assume that it means nonmarijuana crimes. (back)
    3. The federal position may in flux. Under Henry L. Giordano, Harry Anslinger's hand-picked successor, the Bureau of Narcotics took the position that marijuana caused crime. The present director, John E. Ingersoll, appears to be in the process of re-evaluating the Bureau's past policies. In a recent speech to the National Academy of Science, he said that "established positions, where no longer valid, will no longer be maintained." It is too early to discern what direction this policy will take. However, the fact that Ingersoll has asked Congress recently to lower the federal penalties on marijuana possession may very well indicate that the Bureau's position on the criminogenics of marijuana has softened considerably. (back)
    4. Henry L. Giordano, "Marihuana—A Calling Card to Narcotic Addiction," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 37, no. 1l (November 1968): 2. (back)
    5. New York State Department of Health, "Violence Direct Result of Marijuana, Says Bellizzi, State Health Official Cites 27 Murders by Drug Users, New York State Department of Health Weekly Bulletin 20, no. 26 (June 26, 1967): 101. (back)
    6. Thorvald T. Brown, The Enigma of Drug Addiction (Springfield, III.: Charles C Thomas, 1961), pp. 61, 62. (back)
    7. Edward R. Bloomquist, Marijuana (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Glencoe Press, 1968), p 97 (back)
    8. Louria The Drug Scene, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968), p. 110. (back)
    9. Rosweil D. Johnson, "Medico-Social Aspects of Marijuana, The Rhode Island Medical Journal 51 (March 1968): 176, 177. (back)
    10. Thomas Ciesla, Testimony, in Hearings on Marijuana Laws Before the California Public Health and Safety Committee (Los Angeles, October 18, 1967, morning session), transcript, pp. 110-l l 1. (back)
    11. Bloomquist, op. cit., p. 93. (back)
    12. Herbert Blumer et al., The World of Youthful Drug Use (Berkeley: University of California, School of Criminology, January 1967), p. 30. (back)
    13. James C. Munch, "Marihuana and Crime," United Nations Bulletin on Narcotics 18, no. 2 ( April-June 1966): 15-22; Bloomquist, op. cit., pp. 4-5; New York Department of Health, op. cit., p. 101; Giordano, op. cit., pp. 4-5; Donald E. Miller, Marihuana: The Law and Its Enforcement," Suffolk University Law Review 3 (Fall 1968): 86 87; Los Angeles Police Department, "Facts About Marijuana," pamphlet (Los Angeles: Narcotic Educational Foundation of America, n.d. [circa 1968]), pp. 7-8; Martin Lordi, "The Truth about Marijuana: Stepping Stone to Destruction,' leaflet 1, No. 5 (Newark, New Jersey: The Essex County Youth and Economic Rehabilitation Commission, June 967), n-p (back)
    14. The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, "Crime in America," in The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, lg67), Table 8. (back)
    15. This fact does not contradict the fact that users often fear arrest. But they typically think in terms of "don't get caught"—i.e., in largely tactical terms. They do not feel guilty about having broken the law because they do not feel that the law is just. But regardless of whether it is just or not, users cannot ignore it. (back)
    16. Robert Osterman, A Report in Depth on Crime in America (Silver Spring, Md.: The National Observer, 1966), p. 94.
    It is a curious irony of this position that the most effective means of reducing the putative link between marijuana and crime is to decriminalize marijuana. If it were not illegal to use, own, buy, and sell marijuana, then not only criminals would use it, and one need not associate with criminals to buy it. So that the user is not seduced into a life of crime. No adherent of this position, however, would be willing to accept its conclusions. (back)
    17. Gene R. Haslip, "Current Issues in the Prevention and Control of the Marihuana Abuse" (Paper presented to the First National Conference on Student Drug Involvement sponsored by the United States National Student Association at the University of Maryland, August 16,1967), pp. 4-6. (back)
    18. Giordano, op. cit., p. 4. Some of the crimes gathered in this pseudo-study are presented in Louis C. Wyman, "Examples of Marihuana and Crime,' Congressional Record, April 4, 1968, pp. E2753-E2754. I would like to thank Dr. Richards for her assistance on these facts, in spite of my disagreement with the Bureau's policies. (back)
    19. Los Angeles Police Department, op. cit., pp. 6-8. (back)
    20. Munch, op. cit. (back)
    21. The question of a "lethal dose" is debatable. Since marijuana is not toxic in the same way that alcohol is there is no known lethal dosage. However, any agent, including water, has some level at which it may be fatal, if only for the fact that it obstructs normal and vital bodily processes. It is probably impossible to smoke a lethal dose of marijuana—the smoker would have passed out long before his intake reached a level of danger to his body—but one can probably ingest a fatal amount by eating, simply because the effects will be felt long after intake occurs; the same could be said for any substance, however inert. (back)
    22. Published by the Linacre Press, in Washington, in 1949. (back)
    23. Wolff, op. cit., pp. 52, 53, 50, 45. (back)
    24. Ibid., pp. 46, 47. (back)
    25. Ibid., p. 53. (back)
    26. Ibid., p. 49. (back)
    27. Martin Lordi, "The Truth about Marijuana" Letter to the Editor, Playboy, June 68, p. 163. (back)
    28. Wolff, op. cit., p. 22. (back)
    29. Munch, op. cit., p. 17. (back)
    30. Wolff, op. cit., pp. 13, 23-27, 31, 33-36, 37, 39. (back)
    31. Vogel, op. cit., pp. 1, 3, 5, 6. (back)
    32. Bloomquist, Marijuana, p. 95; Miller, op. cit., p. 85; Munch, op. cit., pp. 15, 22; Haslip, op. cit., p. 5. (back)
    33. Gurbakhsh Singh Chopra, "Man and Marijuana," The International Journal of the Addictions 4 (June 1969): 240. (back)
    34. H. B. M. Murphy, "The Cannabis Habit," United Nations Bulletin on Narcotics, no. 1 (January-March 1963): 13-23; cited at Chopra, op. cit., pt 240. (back)
    35. C. G. Gardikas, "Hashish and Crime," Enkephalos 2, no. 3 (1950): 201-211. (back)
    36. For a first-person account of the horrors of Greek prisons written by an American arrested and sentenced for selling hashish in Greece, see the essay by Neal Phillips, "Notes From Tartaros," in George Andrews and Simon Vinkenoog, eds., The Book of Grass (London: Peter Owen, 1967), pp. 230-234. (back)
    37. The President's Commission, op. cit., Table 2, p. 20. (back)
    38. Ibid. (back)
    39. For three excellent essays discussing illegal police practices—most of which are generally considered within the profession good police work and are never viewed by society as "criminal", see Paul Chevigny, Police Power (New York: Pantheon, 1969); Jerome Skolnick, Justice Without Trial (New York: Wiley, 1966), and The Politics of Protest (New York: Ballantine, 1969). (back)

Chapter 10

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