The Marijuana Smokers
Chapter 9 - Marijuana, Crime, and Violence*
IntroductionIf 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...
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 SociologistsThe 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 and violence. The official stance of federal, 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. "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, 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.
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.
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." 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."
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.
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.
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.
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 MethodAs 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:
- What does it mean, logically and empirically, to ask: Does marijuana "cause" crime?
- What kind of crimes are we talking about?
- What are the various reasons for the causal connection, if any?
- Does this causal connection vary from one social group to another, or is it the same for all?
- 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.
ENUMERATIVE METHOD: ACCIDENTAL PSEUDO-ASSOCIATIONWhile 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.
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.
DESCRIPTIVE ASSOCIATIONThere 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.
ANALYTIC ASSOCIATIONWe 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. 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. 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.
PSEUDO-CAUSAL RELATIONSHIPMarijuana 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 itselfdoesn'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.
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.
TRUE CAUSAL RELATIONSHIPThe 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  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 SurveysWe 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."
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."
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 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," "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. 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."
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." 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.
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... 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?" (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" has its contemporary reverberation today in Munch's "chronic exposure produces brain lesions." 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. 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."
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, 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..." 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." 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"). 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. 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 InterviewsIn 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. 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. 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 CrimeThe 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  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)
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 - Using, Selling, and Dealing Marijuana
IntroductionIt could be that 100 times as much marijuana, in bulk, is consumed now in comparison with ten years ago. But whether our estimate is considerably larger or smaller than this, tons of this drug move about the country in some sort of orderly fashion. It is grown, imported, distributed, and consumed according to a pattern. Our understanding of this complex, controversial drug must include an investigation of its distribution.
One item in the marijuana controversy is the attempt to legitimate one or another conception of marijuana selling. The drug's opponents, as a strategy of discrediting marijuana use, promulgate the position that it is imported, distributed, and sold by professional gangsters for profit to unsuspecting youths who have been duped by the gangsters' tricky techniques. The cannabis advocates, on the other hand, maintain that selling (and especially giving away) marijuana is an act of love representing a desire to "turn on" the whole world to beauty and euphoria. Although both views adumbrate value-tinted conceptions of its use, marijuana nonetheless continues to be grown, brought, sold, and consumed. By investigating the empirical phenomenon of marijuana distribution, we may aid and abet one or another ideological view, but the empirical substratum will remain unchanged. The pattern by which the drug moves, however, can be determined, and it is our task to shed some light on it.
The classic antimarijuana stance with regard to marijuana selling has existed at least since the 1930s, though it has undergone some modification since then. For instance, even the police realize that drug sellers need not proselytize potential users, that friends introduce friends to a drug. The essential features of the marijuana opponent's position on selling are (1) selling marijuana is a highly profitable activity; therefore, pot sellers are either linked to, or part of, the criminal underworld; (2) the personnel of marijuana selling and heroin selling overlap considerably; (3) potselling is typically a career, continued over a long period of time, with a high degree of commitment, as a means of livelihood; (4) if relatively uncommitted individuals (such as college students) who are only marginally involved with the criminal underworld are selling marijuana, they act as a kind of front for the real criminals, who use them for contact, distribution, and respectability purposes.
The police are convinced of the dominant role of profit in marijuana selling. One indication of this is the news releases given by the police to the media citing the value of their drug seizures. In order to emphasize the role of profit and inflate the importance of the job that they are doing, the police extravagantly exaggerate the monetary worth of the drugs that they have confiscated is a given raid. One of the most spectacular examples occurred in the fall of 1968, when the New York Police Department, with agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, seized, in a psychedelic "church": 4,500 doses of LSD, 1,500 of STP, fifty of mescaline, ten pounds of hashish, and ten pounds of marijuana. The cache was valued by the police at six to ten million dollars. About a week after the raid, The New York Times printed a letter from "an irate marijuana smoker" who calculated the value of the seizure, at current prices, at $50,000, less than 1 percent of the police estimate. The enormity of the disjunction calls for a look at the patterns of marijuana selling. When there are systematic patterns in the versions of reality espoused by individuals variously located in the social structure of an activity or institution, we are forced to understand how location influences perception.
The student of a deviant or illegal activity struggles with the subterranean character of his data. His area of investigation is half-hidden, usually fully accessible only to the participants. Facts are discovered in a patchy and unsystematic manner, revealing one facet of a reality, while others that might tell a very different story remain obscured. The more inaccessible a phenomenon, the broader the latitude for delineating totally contradictory portraits of it. Add to this the saturation of that phenomenon in emotional and ideological arenas, and the stage is set for every conceivable version describing it to run rampant. This is extravagantly the case with marijuana selling. In the past two or three years, journalistic accounts of marijuana selling from the inside have become public knowledge. Although necessarily partial, these accounts reflect a previously unexplored source of information which must be taken into account before we can claim to understand the phenomenon in question.
To know anything about a deviant activity, it is necessary to interview the participant. For some inexplicable reason, this maxim has rarely been followed in marijuana dealing. During the course of the research, I saw dozens of transactions, ranging from several pounds to the smallest purchase. In addition, I requested several dealers to prepare written statements of their selling activities. Third, so many of my 200 interviewees had sold at least once that the formal interview captured a great deal of information on buying and selling. From these various sources, I was able to piece together something of a consistent picture of marijuana selling.
Levels of SellingThe most striking source of the discrepancy between the police image of the marijuana market and that of the insider—i.e., the dealer—is a lack of specification of the level at which deals customarily take place. The police tend to identify one aspect with the whole, that aspect most clearly spelled out by the stereotype of the dealer conducting deals of large volume and high profit. Yet, this comprises a small percentage of all transactions which take place and, indeed, transactions at that level need not take place at all.
The metaphor which best describes the heroin distribution system is that of two funnels, one inverted, with their ends meeting. The raw opium is harvested at the production end by thousands of small and medium-sized farmers, mainly in Turkey, Southeast Asia, and Mexico, and sold at the consumption end to thousands of addicts, with a small number of highly organized criminals in between, who buy, process, and distribute the drug, earning immense profits. Although recent indications point to the fact that non-Mafia criminals are being allowed to distribute heroin, the newcomers are nonetheless organized professional criminals. There are no amateurs at the upper levels of the heroin scene.
The two funnels model does not work quite so well with marijuana. Although it is possible that organized crime may import, distribute, and sell some of the marijuana consumed in America (no definitive or systematic evidence has yet been presented which supports this contention), it is certain that enormous quantities of marijuana never pass through the hands of professional criminals at all. The leakage from these funnels is sufficient to invalidate the funnel model altogether. To begin with, there is the factor of growing one's own marijuana. "Plant your seeds," advises a cartoon Mary Jane figure in the October 1968 issue of Other Scenes, a staunchly promarijuana underground newspaper; "keep prices down." About six of my interviewees were actually growing marijuana in New York apartments at the time of the interview. One had set up an elaborate greenhouse, with fluorescent lighting, in a closet. Another grew it in a bathtub on his terrace until it was harvested and stolen by an observant thief. A recent publication, Home Grown Happiness  distributed by The East Village Other, sells thousands of copies. It gives a detailed account of the most effective methods of growing and harvesting high-quality marijuana, including sections on "Selecting The Seed," "Transplanting," "Artificial Light," and so on. The last page contains the injunction, in capital letters, "Remember, every time you throw away a teaspoon of seeds you have destroyed a potential 100 or more ounces of marijuana!" Across the front page of the April 9, 1969, issue of EVO ran the headline, "This is the Week to Plant Your Pot Seeds." A letter to the editor in the same issue announced: "The time is ripe for planting marijuana. Spring has sprung.... Beautify America.... Trees of grass in every park, vacant lot, roadside, tree box.... free marijuana for all next fall." It was signed by Ed Grassplanter.
As late as the early 1950s, huge quantities of marijuana were growing wild in empty lots in New York City; in one sortie in 1951, the New York Sanitation Department destroyed over 30,000 pounds of marijuana pulled up in these lots. Although rumors are often circulated concerning marijuana's growth in New York, it is unlikely that any plant could survive today growing wild in any urban area; it risks decimation from friend and foe alike. However, this is not the case in sparsely settled areas. Numerous cases exist of college students earning handsome profits by gathering wild marijuana spotted from cruising cars. According to one account, the "major sources of marijuana for Midwest students are the surrounding corn fields." (This is less likely to be true today than in 1965.)
Although most of the marijuana consumed, both in terms of bulk and in terms of the number of transactions, will not be homegrown or gathered wild—the majority of all marijuana smoked still comes from Mexico—a sizable minority of it is, and these sources should not be discounted in delineating the marijuana distribution system. (In addition, it must be kept in mind that American-grown marijuana is considerably less potent than Mexican-grown cannabis.)
Far more users planted their seeds (which many keep around for just such contingencies) during the drought year of 1969 than any in recent years. In addition, a great deal more hashish became available in 1969, possibly only part of a general trend toward greater hashish use—which is on the rise much faster than the use of leaf marijuana—or, possibly, partly as a response to this lack of availability of Mexican marijuana. In any case, most of the time, most of the marijuana consumed in America originates from Mexico.
A reasonable price for a ton of marijuana, purchased from a middleman in Mexico, is between $10,000 and $20,000, which means that it costs about five or ten dollars per pound, or less than fifty cents per ounce. A typical wholesale price in New York, buying in a bulk lot of several kilograms, is about $120 per kilo, or about $3.50 per ounce. (California prices are generally about half New York prices.) Most characteristically, ounces are sold at the retail street price of twenty or twenty-five dollars.* If the smoker wishes to purchase joints (individual marijuana cigarettes) already rolled, he pays between fifty cents and a dollar apiece. Employing simple arithmetic, we find that the mark-up from field to joint can be considerably higher than 100 times in price, that is, buying at two joints per penny at the ton price, and selling at one dollar per joint at the joint price. Thus, the enterprising dealer might see in marijuana sales a source of enormous profits. This is, however, a naive inference. The novice might make the same mistake about the workings of the marijuana market as do the police.
The joint price, a dollar per joint, is a ghostly abstraction. Few purchase individual joints, pre-rolled. Almost every smoker beyond the level of rawest novice rolls his own. (Except, I am told, in Vietnam, where large joints of excellent quality may be purchased in emptied American cigarette packs.) Even when he buys the smallest bulk quantity, the "nickel bag," for five dollars, he must strain out the twigs and seeds, buy cigarette papers (the same as for tobacco roll-your-owns), and learn the technology involved in manufacturing a smokeable joint. The nickel bag is a common quantity for a smoker only moderately involved with the drug and its subculture. In New York, this is between one-fourth and one-eighth of an ounce? enough marijuana to make between eight to fifteen marijuana cigarettes, depending on the size of the joints, the dealer's generosity, and the purchaser's willingness to be shortchanged.
As both the market and the subculture of marijuana use expand, purchases become increasingly larger in bulk. In the 1930s and 1940s, purchasing individual joints was common. A few years ago the nickel bag purchase was characteristic. Now the smoker buys an ounce, enough marijuana for fifty to seventy joints. This means that each cigarette costs him somewhere between twenty-five and forty cents—not a dollar. Economy is part of the motivation; obviously, the larger the size of the purchase, the lower the unit cost. It is also to the advantage of the purchaser to minimize the number of transactions in which he is involved: the greater the number of purchases he makes, the greater the chance of coming into contact with an undercover agent and getting arrested. As the user becomes increasingly sophisticated about the workings of the market and the activities of law enforcement agencies, the size of his purchase increase correspondingly. Thus, the recent appearance of the typical ounce purchase. Since the ounce is the most characteristic purchase, it comes closest to being what corresponds, in the purchase of legal goods, to the "retail" price.
A given bulk quantity of marijuana in a dealer's living room or garage automatically is worth less than if it is split up and distributed among his customers. Selling marijuana, at least at the dealer-to-user level, is hard work; each deal involves a certain amount of moving about and a lot of socializing. No farmer would reckon the value of his tomato crop in the field on the basis of its total sale at the supermarket. The final product is saturated with the value of labor. Thus, a dealer's cache of several kilograms is worth the kilogram price—in New York, about $120 per kilo. If sold to the customer, that cache might eventually earn twenty dollars per ounce instead, but the point is, it hasn't been sold to the customer, and it is, therefore, worth correspondingly less.
In addition, the multi-kilo purchaser rarely earns twenty dollars per ounce, because he doesn't generally sell in ounces. At that level, two or three stages below the original source, he is most likely to break up what he has into pounds, and sell pounds for $100 or $120. He usually does not want to be bothered with ounce purchases, except as a favor to friends, because it involves a great many discrete transactions. Even though the margin of profit is higher if he buys several kilos and sells 100 or 200 ounces, the profit on each transaction is much smaller, and each transaction represents work, time, and danger. He leaves the ounce sales to the man below him, who has bought his pound. A 20-year-old male college student dealer explains his usual marketing procedure with a kilo (a "ki" or "key" in the jargon):Well, let's say I pick a ki or something like that, instead of breaking it up into nickels (laughs) and dimes, you know, and trying to squeeze every penny out of it, I'll probably just break it in half and sell it in pounds, or something like that, and I might make $100 off it, and that'll keep me going for three or four weeks.
Yet, even this qualification simplifies the actual situation because unlike legally sold products, a great percentage of the marijuana that finally reaches the user is not sold at the retail or consumer level. A given kilogram may be cut into at many different levels. Since all (or nearly all) sellers smoke, a given proportion will be diverted for the dealer's own use at wholesale prices with no profit. Depending on how much he smokes, a purchase of a kilogram will typically involve a diversion of, say, half a pound for his own private use. Another chunk will be given or sold at cost to close friends, offered to guests, girl friends, used to cancel debts, so that marijuana may be thought of as a kind of tribal barter currency. Out from the center (the dealer) are less intimate friends and acquaintances who might pay less than the standard prices—in New York, probably ten dollars per ounce. Further out will be the near-stranger transactions, which will entail payment of the full retail price. It is obvious, therefore, that the leakage from the wholesale to the retail price is considerable. A marijuana purchase occurs at nearly any link in the producer-to-consumer chain, depending on one's intimacy with the dealer and one's knowledge of the current market price.
Max Weber maintained that one of the triumphs of Western civilization was the introduction of the universalistic price system. Products are held to be worth a given fixed quantity. As with time, the universe is segmentalized into uniform units of equal size, infinitely reproducible. Any and all products are held to be translatable into a standard measure, easily arranged into an unambiguous hierarchy of clearly gradable value. How much a man is "worth" is how much money he has. The marijuana subculture is a kind of island of tribalism within a sea of commercial ethic. Value, like time, is relative. How much a given quantity of marijuana is worth depends less on an abstract quality inherent in the product than on a variety of concrete and personal indices. While the junkie mentality in many ways is a ruthless exaggeration of the spirit of capitalism, the committed marijuana smoker's subculture represents its very opposite.
If this is so as a general guiding principle, it is especially so when marijuana itself is at issue. This is not to say that money has no meaning for smokers, even in marijuana exchanges, nor that all heads are idealistic flower children. Representatives of the bourgeois spirit may be found everywhere, even among the most seemingly uncommitted. Capitalists of the drug underground abound, and mimeographed demands are circulated from time to time in various drug-using communities that the local dealers should try to curb their avarice, lower their prices and hand out more free grass. Where there is demand for something, money, goods, or services will be exchanged for it, whatever it is, wherever it is. Nor does it mean that marijuana is not felt to be "worth" anything. But what is so strange about the attitude of heads toward marijuana is that its value seems to be so curiously elastic. A dealer who would not hesitate to hand out dozens of free nickel bags to friends couldn't imagine giving away the same value in real money—either what the substance is supposed to be worth, or even what it cost him. It is as if marijuana isn't quite real, as if it exists in some sort of other world, where the rules of the game are different. The closest thing that comes to it in the "straight" world is food. It is an act of hospitality to feed one's guests; a breach of common good manners to allow them to go hungry. Smoking marijuana, like eating together, binds its participants in a primitive sense of fellowship.
Using and SellingThe police commonly express the view that the real target of their efforts is the dealer, not the user. Their imagery is commonly borrowed from the world of heroin addiction, where, it is asserted, the narcotics peddler makes a profit from human degradation and misery. Marijuana use, too, supposedly typifies this clear-cut distinction between user and seller.
The problem with this view is that selling takes place on many levels, among many kinds of participants. Selling is often a matter of convenience; it may be an arbitrary decision as to who is the buyer and who the seller on a specific transaction. Knowledge of current deals being transacted, or simply having requisite cash, often defines who is to play the role of the dealer on a given occasion. Among our informants, nearly half (44 percent) said that they had sold at least once. Moreover, there was a continuum from the user who had sold only once (12 percent of those who admitted ever selling) to the one who sold frequently, say, more than fifty times (18 percent of all sellers), with shades of variation between. One is struck by the evenness of the range of selling, while if one took the classic pattern of pushing seriously, one would expect to see very few sellers, with nearly all of those that sold to have done so innumerable times in gigantic quantities. Rather, what we actually find is that many marijuana smokers sell, characteristically in very small quantities. Over a third of those who had sold (36 percent) reported that they most commonly sold in ounces, and about 5 percent said that selling in quantities of a pound or more was usual. The typical seller sold a median of eight times in an average quantity of two ounces.
However, far more important than the mere incidence of selling —since our sample is not "representative"—is the systematic variation in selling according to certain key variables. The most important variable influencing whether the smoker sold or not is how much he uses: the more one smokes, the greater is the likelihood that he sold. Among our respondents, the relationship between these two variables could hardly have been more striking (see Table 10-1).
The logistics of continued heavy use implies, and even demands, selling. The heavy marijuana user invariably keeps a supply, and many only occasional smokers do as well. The more that one smokes, the greater is the likelihood that one will have a supply. Not one of the twenty-six daily smokers said that they did not have a supply of marijuana (see Table 10-2).
Selling by the Amount One Smokes
"Have you ever sold marijuana?"
Percent saying "yes"
The Amount One Smokes Percent N Daily 92 26 3 to 6 times weekly 80 42 1 to 2 times weekly 40 55 1 to 4 times monthly 14 36 Less than monthly 11 45
Keeping a Supply of Marijuana by
"Do you generally keep a supply of marijuana around your house?"[a]
(percent) Marijuana Use Yes No N Daily 85 0 26 3 to 6 times weekly 64 21 42 1 to 2 times weekly 54 28 54 1 to 4 times monthly 29 41 34 Less than monthly 11 79 38[a] All other replies aside from "yes" and "no" eliminated from table.It is characteristically the case that even heavy marijuana smokers will not be able to use up, within a brief space of time, the quantities that they purchase. Often a sale will be on a basis of "take it or leave it." An available quantity might be an ounce, in which case none of it will be sold, or a pound, or a kilogram, in which case most of it will be sold. The only way the marijuana user can limit his transactions and his exposure to arrest is to purchase large amounts. By buying a pound at the near-wholesale price of $120, and selling twelve ounces to twelve friends at ten dollars for each ounce, one thereby has four ounces free. "Free grass" is an inducement for selling.
On the surface, the parallel with the heroin addict might seem striking: each sells to support the habit, getting nothing else out of it. Yet, even if the marijuana seller smokes five joints a day, an enormous quantity, he would consume a pound every six months, which means that his habit costs about fifty cents a day, at the most. We are forced, therefore, to discard the "support the habit" explanation for selling.
Every marijuana user is not only a marijuana user, he is invariably also a friend, and his friends also smoke. There is a positive and linear relation between the amount one smokes and the percentage of one's friends who also smoke (see Table 10-3).
Percent of Closest Friends Who Are Regular Marijuana Smokers [a]
Marijuana Use 0-29 30-59 60-100 N Daily 4 35 62 26 3 to 6 times weekly 14 36 50 42 1 to 2 times weekly 35 24 41 54 1 to 4 times monthly 42 31 28 36 Less than monthly 72 19 9 43[a] Designated as at least once per week.This would create, therefore, a certain amount of pressure to sell. The more that one smokes marijuana, the higher the proportion of one's friends who are marijuana smokers; the higher the proportion of one's friends who are marijuana smokers, the greater is the probability that they will buy and sell from one another, particularly as their turnover in supply is so much greater (see Table 10-4).
Moreover, not only is a higher proportion of the heavy smoker's friendship network more likely to smoke, but he is also more likely to have access to information concerning the availability of periodically appearing quantities of marijuana on the market. He is more likely to know others who buy and sell and who are higher up in the distribution ladder. He is more acquainted with the price system, which fluctuates even in the short run. He knows more about some of the rules and precautions to take to avoid arrest, thefts "burns" and being short-changed, as well as buying adulterated goods. He can buy and sell successfully and with confidence. Anyone arriving on the marijuana scene in a complete-stranger situation would encounter great difficulty in making a large purchase.
Selling by Closest Friends Who Are
Regular Marijuana Smokers
"Have you ever sold marijuana?"
Percent saying "yes"
Percent of One's Friends
Who are Regular Marijuana
Percent N 60-100 68 73 30-59 43 56 0-29 21 72
There is a two-way process at work here. On the one hand, one must be implicated in a web of social relations to be able to purchase the drug. In this sense, friendship patterns are a necessary condition for selling to take place. But one's friendship network is not merely a passive requirement for selling and buying; it is also an active force which insures one's involvement in selling as an activity, since friends who smoke make requests and demands that often relate to marijuana sales. In addition, selling further implicates one in social relations that are marijuana-based. By buying and selling, one extends one's network of acquaintances, almost all of whom are marijuana users. In short, friendships and sales intersect with one another; they are inseparable elements of a single dimension. Their relationship with one another must be seen in dialectical terms, rather than simple cause and effect.
Generally, selling must be considered as part of the syndrome of use. It is not simply that the user must purchase his drug supply from the seller to consume the drug (this symbiotic relationship exists with heroin as well), but that the user and the seller are largely indistinguishable; there is no clear-cut boundary between them. A large percentage of users sell, and nearly all sellers use. In fact, the determining force behind selling is use: heavy users are very likely to sell, while infrequent users are unlikely to do so. The fact that a given individual sells—whether it be done once, occasionally, or frequently, specifically for a profit—is determined mainly by his involvement in the drug, in its subculture, with others who smoke. Selling marijuana, then, to some degree presupposes involvement with the marijuana subculture which, in turn, implies at least a moderate degree of use. Selling and using involve parallel activities and associations; the seller and the user inhabit the same social universe. The difference between them is simply a matter of degree, since selling is a surer indicator of one's involvement with the drug subculture than is buying or, even more so, using. To think of the dealer as preying on his hapless victim, the marijuana smoker, as profiting on his misery, is to possess a ludicrously incorrect view of the state of affairs.
It is necessary, therefore, to abandon the conspiratorial view of the relationship between the marijuana user and the seller—a primitive model borrowed from the world of addiction. Rather, selling must be looked at as an index of involvement with the marijuana subculture. At the peripheries of the marijuana scene, we find the experimenter, the extremely infrequent user, the dabbler, the once, twice, or dozen-time user. He has few marijuana-smoking friends, is rarely presented with opportunities for use, is curious about its effects, and usually discontinues its use after his curiosity is satisfied. It is possible that he is the most frequent representative of the total universe of all individuals who have ever used the drug; if not, at any rate, he forms a sizable minority of all users.
At the lowest levels of use, the smoker does not even buy marijuana; close to three-quarters of our less than monthly smokers (71 percent) said that they never bought the drug. He is dependent on friends who are involved with marijuana to offer him the drug when he visits. In fact, when the drug is extended, it is not thought of as one person giving another a material object. Generally, a joint is passed around to all present in a kind of communal fellowship. Hence, giving marijuana away, in this specific sense, is more common than selling. In volume, of course, marijuana is far more often sold than given away. But more individuals have given marijuana away than have sold, since nearly every smoker who owns any amount of the drug has smoked socially, and has passed a communally smoked joint around to his guests.
The infrequent user generally does not seek out the drug, but accepts it when offered. This pattern is most characteristic of women. If the experimenter is unlikely to buy, it holds, a fortiori, that he is unlikely to sell. At the middle levels of use, the smoker will generally buy his own marijuana, keep a small supply for occasions when the mood strikes him, and only occasionally sell to others when he happens to have some extra, or when asked by a friend who finds other channels unavailable. At the highest levels of use, the smoker will not only buy and have his own supply, but also sometimes sell in fairly sizable quantities, and explicitly for a profit, although this may be only one among a variety of motives. (Not all, or even most, heavy users are large-scale dealers, but the dealer is most likely to be found among the heavy users.) Each of these activities can be thought of as an index of one's involvement with the marijuana-using subculture. Each represents a kind of subtle step into another social world.
There are, it would seem, two types of marijuana exchanges. One type is "dealing," which may be defined as selling explicitly for a profit at current street prices to anyone one trusts. A dealer (not a "peddler" nor a "pusher," although, sometimes, a "connection") is the person who sells a certain quantity in high volume for a profit. (He will always, in addition, also sell to friends at little or no profit.) Often someone who sells regularly to friends and acquaintances for minimal profit will be requested by a near-stranger to sell some of his supply. His answer will often be, "I'm not a dealer," meaning, not that he is averse to selling per se, but that he sells only to certain people, and only as a favor to them; he does not deal for a profit. At one end of the spectrum, then, we have transactions involving little or no profit (at the extreme, giving marijuana away, either in bulk, or, in the form of individual joints, in one's home, as a gesture of hospitality like a glass of sherry). At the other end, "dealing" means many transactions, usually in sizable quantities (although the "nickels and dimes" street hustler must be considered), always for a profit, and often to near-strangers. Although the law treats these two types of exchanges as being in the same category, entailing the same penalties, they are distinct sociologically. Legal categories are often meaningless as social descriptions of the acts they penalize, although often accurate, even simultaneously, as a description of how these acts are viewed by the rest of society. Naturally, there is an entire continuum between these two types, with mixed characteristics. But in terms of the sheer number of transactions—because the product is finally fanning out to the consumer, and is, therefore, small in bulk and large in number—the friendship end of the spectrum is far more common than the profit end.
Motives for SellingThe motives underlying marijuana dealing are complex. Although at the top of the hierarchy of selling, profit is likely to dominate more than is true at the bottom, there is no level in the distribution system (on the American side of the transaction at least) where profit is the sole reason for dealing. In contrast, the expressed motives for selling heroin might be reduced to two: profit (at the top), and the use of heroin (at the bottom). With marijuana, the picture is considerably more intricate. Certainly the free use of marijuana predominates—at least in frequency, if not in the strength of motivation.
But beyond "free grass" and some profit, the reasons for selling vary. Some dealers enjoy the cloak and dagger intrigue, at least in the beginning:The dealer commands a certain mystique in the East Village. He is playing a far more dangerous game than the customer, and he is respected for it. For himself, the excitement surrounding a "big deal" and the ritual and accoutrements of the trade act as an antidote for the growing plague of boredom. Most dealers are proud of their fine scales, and enjoy the ritual of sifting and weighing their stock. The exchange, sometimes involving large amounts of cash and drugs, is the climax of the business and may have an "007" sort of intrigue.
The fact that one is a sometimes central figure in a subcommunity whose values and evaluations of others revolve, in part, around drug use and especially "inside dopester" information concerning drug prices and sources acts as an attraction for many users to sell and deal. The dealer is acquainted with a scene from which the nondealer is to some degree excluded. The dealer simply knows more about what is happening in a sphere of some importance to the smoker; moreover, he distributes a valued object, which the smoker could obtain with a little more difficulty from others. A twenty-seven-year-old high school teacher only sporadically involved in selling explains the reasons for his involvement.It's this: being in on something that's important to others. Other people are dependent on you. They have to rely on you. You are, in a minor sense, controlling their destiny. You are important—you have a source and they don't, and that shows how "in" you are, how others trust you and maybe even like you. You are a big man. Others come to you needing something, and you dispense largesse. It's kind of an ego boost, I guess. Like, after copping a quarter of a pound of grass, the guy I copped from said, man, I want to get some DMT. I was in debt to this guy for getting the grass, see, so I said, I can get you some DMT, man. It shows how much you know, how you are in the middle of things, how you are hip.
The dealer, a respected figure on the drug scene, commands a kind of low-level charisma. Often relations spill onto one another, his dealer role and activities becoming translated into access to, and demands for, activities in other valued spheres. "As a dealer," said one heavy drug user, "it was easy to become a witch doctor, soul counselor, elder brother."
Every drug seller is a political man as well as an economic and social man, so that satisfactions with their drug activities often include motives having a somewhatcivic character. A twenty-two-year-old college student dealer delineates his involvement with marijuana:I'm spreading drugs around, and turning people onto drugs, and thereby they're meeting people who are, you know, involved politically, or involved in the revolution in its many facets, and they're just becoming involved with other people. I consider it, you know, kind of humanitarian, getting people away from plastic and steel, and getting them back toward the funk of life, you know, digging people as just being people.
It seems clear, then, that for some dealers a variety of expressed motives are of at least some degree of importance in their involvement in the drug selling scene; they must be counted as impelling reasons for participation in dealing. All of this does not deny the role of profit in selling. What it does do, however, is affirm that in most transactions, pure profit never rules supreme; it is always alloyed with motives that make a mercenary image of the dealer empirically suspect. The bulk, if not nearly all, of marijuana buying and selling transactions that take place entail some profit, generally modest, and of secondary consideration. Of course, even if profit were a potent motive in dealing, the question remains: why deal in preference to anything else? Why deal marijuana in preference to any other drug? There are endless number of ways of making a living. Why sell pot?
Selling, Dealing, and the LawWhen we attempt an appraisal of the role of the organized criminal in marijuana dealing, we encounter a number of logical and methodological obstacles. A given quantity of marijuana bought by a dozen members of a criminal ring from a middleman in Mexico, imported to this country and sold for a considerable profit to hundreds of American dealers, will be broken down into increasingly smaller quantities, eventually sold among friends for little or no profit. What will be bought at the top in one transaction will be sold at the bottom in thousands of transactions, so that if we take as our basic unit of analysis the transaction, typically marijuana is sold for no profit, in an unorganized fashion, among friends. On the other hand, an immense quantity of marijuana does pass through the hands of individuals who earn their living from selling drugs and nothing else. In bulk, then, most marijuana was sold at one time among professional criminals for profit. How we characterize marijuana selling depends on what level the transaction takes place. This might lend sustenance to the ideologically involved contestants, since they may, without distortion, portray dealing in a fashion which pleases their biases.
Just how involved the large-scale dealer is in marijuana selling is obliquely determined by the size of the seizures of imports from Mexico. In terms of the number of these smuggling attempts, clearly the overwhelming majority are of relatively insignificant quantities—under a pound. The largest recent border seizure was about a ton of marijuana. An operation of this size obviously requires organization: a micro-bus, middlemen in Mexico, drivers and high-level dealers for distribution. This is not Cosa Nostra organization, but it is organization. If we mean by "organized crime," a syndicate involving thousands of tightly knit, lifelong committed gangsters whose entire livelihood derives from illegal activities, then marijuana probably is not sold, never has been sold, and never will be sold by professional criminals. If, however, we mean an independent operation involving a score of individuals whose activities are coordinated, and who will earn their living for a few years from marijuana sales, then it is true that marijuana is often sold by professional criminals. Just how much of the total of marijuana consumed derives from this kind of source is impossible to determine.
This is why a consideration of the level at which a deal takes place is important. The importer is often a criminal: his livelihood is importing grass; he is a capitalist who sells an illegal product with no particular commitment to marijuana as an agent of mind-transformation, an element in a subculture, or a catalyst in social change. He probably does not smoke marijuana. The unsystematic business practices of "head" dealers created a vacuum into which he stepped. The multi-kilogram top-level dealers to whom he sells are also primarily profit seekers. The crucial difference between the importer and his deal-customers is that the dealer sells to consumers as well as to other dealers and is very likely to be a consumer himself. Next to the consumer, friendship transactions are common. Thus, to say that marijuana is a business is both true and false. At some levels it is; at some, it is not. To say that it is big business is misleading. A monthly take of a quarter of a million dollars, split twenty ways, might represent the very top of the profession. Lower down, even dedicated hustling brings in what an unskilled factory worker might make. Below that, the profit motive breaks down entirely.
A commonly encountered argument against the use of marijuana employs the differential association theory: by using the drug, one is thrown into association with the criminal underworld and, therefore, attitudes toward, and opportunities for, committing extremely serious crimes, and for using heroin, will become increasingly favorable. This statement is made in complete ignorance of how the market works. The average American user never comes into contact with the underworld, even if every gram he smokes were the handiwork of a tightly organized network of full-time professional gangsters. The typical marijuana smoker has no idea where his grass comes from. It has been filtered down through so many levels, has exchanged hands so many times, that the world of top-level selling and of the average user are as alien to one another, and about as likely to associate with one another, as the tobacco auctioneer and the cigarette smoker. The average user buys his pot from a friend, even though it may originally have been derived from someone whose livelihood is dealing.
In New York State, the line dividing a misdemeanor from a felony in marijuana possession is either twenty-five cigarettes or an ounce; the reasoning is that anyone with such a quantity may be presumed to intend to sell, even if no actual sale is detected. On one level, this distinction is absurd and erroneous; on another, it indirectly captures something of the flavor of the actual situation. To suppose that anyone who purchases and possesses one ounce—or who happens to have an ounce lying around, remaining from a possibly even larger purchase—is necessarily going to sell anything from that ounce, is to adopt a peculiar conception of what is actually happening. But to think that anyone who has as much as an ounce is sufficiently integrated into the marijuana community as to render it likely that he has participated in a number of marijuana-related activities—selling among them—is an accurate supposition. The smoker who purchases (and possesses) only an ounce is unlikely to split it up for the purpose of selling it to others.
The law, moreover, makes no distinction between the act of selling or giving away small quantities to friends or acquaintances for little or no profit, and dealing on a large-scale professional basis. In September 1969, a twenty-one-year-old man was sentenced to fifty years in prison by the state of Texas for the act of selling two marijuana cigarettes. Although the legal implications of petty selling and professional dealing are identical, the social worlds of these activities are radically disjunctive.
So there is the question of what the penalties are designed to deter. Is it the technical fact that the literal act of an exchange of money for marijuana took place? Or is it designed to eradicate the source of the drug? Can a user who has only an ounce or two in his possession where distribution sources must be measured in kilograms, not ounces, possibly be the original source for anyone's drug use, aside from his own and a few friends? In fact, it is probably safe to say that the user who possesses only an ounce is almost certainly not a large-scale dealer.
There is the argument that the penalties for marijuana possession (and use) should be reduced, but not for selling. This distinction violates empirical reality; it implies the existence of two relatively separated social and moral spheres that articulate on a superficial basis—profit. If the seller is guilty, the user is, too, because the user is the seller, and the seller the user. The technical exchange of contraband goods for money takes place at every conceivable level and by nearly everyone above the minimally involved. Labeling all selling heinous and use only moderately reprehensible, is to display ignorance of how the market works. The present law, as well as the moderate reforms currently being proposed, puts use in one legal, logical category, and all levels of selling in another. We find use and most selling transactions to be logically and socially indistinguishable while high level, high volume, and high profit selling transactions exist in a disjunctive social and moral universe. If we believed in "natural" social categories, the present confusion would represent as great an intellectual blunder as classifying whales as fish and bats as a species of bird.
* These prices were current before the Mexican border blockade and increased vigilance of 1969 and 1970. At the present time (February 1970), prices are about one and a third to one and a half more than what they were a year earlier, even assuming the availability of marijuana, which is often problematic. (back)
N O T E S1. It is interesting that the most vigorous of the antimarijuana propagandists of the 1930s, Harry Anslinger, denied that marijuana was sold by professional gangsters in 1937: "... the control and sale of marijuana has not yet passed into the hands of the big gangster syndicates. The supply is so vast, and grows in so many places, that gangsters perhaps have found it difficult to dominate the source.... gangdom has been hampered in its efforts to corner the profits of what has now become an enormous business." See Harry J. Anslinger, with Courtney Ryley Cooper, "Marijuana—Assassin of Youth," American Magazine 124 (July 18, 1937): 152-153. (back)
2. The clearest recent statement of this position may be found in Will Oursler, Marijuana: The Facts, the Truth (New York: Paul S. Eriksson, 1968), pp. 113-120. Oursler seems to think these college student distributors are gangland fronts, and are called "beavers" in the underworld. (back)
3. The New York Times, September 27, 1968. (back)
4. Ibid., October 6, 1968. (back)
5. The most informative of recent accounts must include: James T. Carey, The College Drug Scene (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968), esp. chs. 2, 4, 5; Jerry Mandel, "Myths and Realities of Marijuana Pushing," in J. L. Simmons, ed., Marijuana: Myths and Realities (North Hollywood, Calif.: Brandon House, 1967), pp. s8-1lo; Don McNeill, "Green Grows the Grass on the Lower East Side," The Village Voice, December 1, 1966, pp. 3, 21; "Ric," "I Turned on 200 Fellow Students at the University of Michigan," Esquire, September 1967, pp. 101, 190-193; Anonymous, "On Selling Marijuana," in Erich Goode, ed., Marijuana (New York: Atherton Press, 1969), pp. 92-102; Jaakov Kohn, "Superdealer," The East Village Other, January 10, 1969, pp. 3, 14-15 and "Midipusher," The East Village Other,January 24, 1969, pp. 6 7, 21; Nicholas von Hoffman, We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us Against (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1968). (back)
6. Charles Grutzner, "Mafia is Giving Up Heroin Monopoly," The New York Times, September 2, 1968, pp. 1, 49. (back)
7. This raises uncomfortable and intriguing constitutional questions that we do not have the space to elaborate on. The parallels between growing one's own marijuana and consuming it in the privacy of one's own home, and pornography consumed in private, are striking. Since the Supreme Court has ruled that owning privately consumed pornography is legal, the same demand could be made for marijuana consumption. See the article by Michael A. Town on the constitutionality of marijuana use as being protected by the right to privacy: "The California Marijuana Possession Statute: An Infringement on the Right of Privacy or Other Peripheral Constitutional Rights?" The Hastings Law Journal 19 (March 1968): 758-782. Now that growing one's own has become so important among many users, this consideration is especially crucial. (back)
8. Michael W. Morier, Home Grown Happiness (New York: Mikus Book, 1967). See also Robert G. Barbour ed., Turn on Book: Synthesis and Extractions of Organic Psychedelics (BarNel Enterprises, 1967); this latter volume includes instructions on preparing and growing a dozen psychedelic drugs, including marijuana, mescaline, DMT, LSD, peyote, and psilocybin. (back)
9. "Saw Toothed," New Yorker, August 11, 1951, pp. 18-19; however, probably only one-tenth or less of this bulk would be useable marijuana. (back)
10. Unquestionably the most fantastic of these rumors is the story, in the January 30, 1965, issue of The Marijuana Newsletter, a short-lived mimeographed publication whose purpose was to "disseminate information toward the legalization of marijuana," about a form of marijuana called "Manhattan Silver," marijuana grown inadvertently in sewers by the seeds having been flushed into the sewage system and growing untended (silver because of the lack of light). The story was a hoax. It was, nonetheless, believed, picked up, and passed on both by advocates and opponents of marijuana use. See John Rosevear, Pot: A Handbook of Marijuana(New Hyde Park, N. Y.: University Books, 1967), pp. 42-43, and Edward R. Bloomquist, Marijuana (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Glencoe Press, 1968), pp. 5, 14, for two contestants—the first pro- and the second antimarijuana use—taken in by the hoax. (back)
11. However, at least one account quoted an informant who claimed that "over a hundred pot smokers, himself included, are growing hidden little marijuana gardens in Manhattan's Central Park." See James Sterba, "The Politics of Pot," Esquire, August 68, p. 59. (back)
12. As a rough indication of the extent of growth of the marijuana plant in the Midwest, consider that a botanist recently stated that 17 percent of the seasonal pollen in the air in Nebraska originates from the marijuana plant. Cited in Sterba, op. cit., p. 118. See Julian Steyermark, Flora of Missouri (Ames: Iowa State University, 1963). (back)
13. RichardGoldstein,1in7: Drugs on the Campus (New York: Walker, 1966),p. 115. (back)
14. McNeill, op. cit., p. 21. (back)
15. I depart from Mandel, op. cit., p. 93, on this point; Mandel underplays the prestige motive among sellers. (back)
16. Anonymous, in "A Note From the Underground," in J. L. Simmons, ed., Marijuana: Myths and Realities (North Hollywood, Calif.: Brandon House, 1967), p. 19. (back)
17. Jack Rosenthal, "A Fresh Look at Those Harsh Marijuana Penalties," The New York Times, Sunday, October 19, 1969, Section 4, The Week in Review, p. E8.(back)
Chapter 11 - Marijuana and the Law
The Federal Marihuana Tax Act: 1937-1969In 1937, the "Marihuana Tax Act" was passed by Congress at the insistence of Harry Anslinger, then the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. There was little debate on the measure, and the chief witness in support of the bill was Anslinger himself. It was signed into law by President Roosevelt with little public notice. While Howard Becker's "moral entrepreneur" argument takes us a long way in explaining the passage of the bill, it is really only a partial explanation. As Becker tells us, moral crusades are launched against every conceivable issue; often a seemingly apathetic public will become outraged over an issue under the fervent tutelage of a resourceful crusader. Sometimes, however, statutes can even be passed without public support or knowledge. In the case of the Marihuana Tax Act, most of the hysterical and exaggerated antimarijuana articles seem to have appeared after the federal law was passed, ostensibly to justify it. But whether the act was passed for purely ideological reasons, or as a calculated measure to expand the operations and budget of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, it had been preceded by a marijuana statute in every state of the union. In a sense, then, the federal law was redundant and unnecessary, as all states had a law prohibiting marijuana, and many of them were more rigorous than the federal law.
Moreover, the design of the federal act was peculiar. It did not outlaw the possession of marijuana. Rather, it penalized the failure to pay the prohibitive excise tax of $100 per ounce on the transfer of marijuana. However, if anyone attempted to comply with the law and filed the necessary form with the Internal Revenue Service declaring his intention to purchase a quantity of the drug along with the details of where, when, from whom, and how much, he would automatically have incriminated himself under the state law. Actually, the federal law was designed as a prohibitive measure. It was presumed that nobody would ever comply, file the forms, and pay the tax. No illicit user of marijuana could ever acquire the necessary license, even if he were willing to pay the tax. Because of the double jeopardy feature of the act, the Supreme Court, in Leary vs. United States, nullified it. It was impossible to comply with the law without facing sanction from the state laws because federal officials passed on the intention-to-purchase information to state officials.
The law was not struck down because the Supreme Court justices thought that marijuana should be legalized. Indeed, it is entirely possible (and even probable) that the Marihuana Tax Act will be replaced by another federal statute outlawing the use, possession, and sale of marijuana which is not marred by the self-incrimination feature. It is only because there are effective state laws that the federal statute was nullified, and the state laws will likely remain in force for some time to come.
The State LawsIt is, of course, impossible to detail the provisions of each state law within the space of a few pages. Occasionally crossing the state line can make a dramatic difference. Until 1969, South Dakota imposed a ninety-day sentence for marijuana possession, while North Dakota had a ninety-nine-year penalty. However, South Dakota stiffened its penalty, bringing it in line with that of the other, more punitive states. Many of the states have adopted the model Uniform Narcotic Drug Act, and thus, there is now a large degree of uniformity of state marijuana laws.
Not only is California the most populous state in the union, it is also a trend-setting state: much of what is fashionable in California later spreads to other states. There is no question about the state's dominance in marijuana use. In terms of the sheer numbers, as well as percentage, California has more marijuana users by far than does any other state. (In addition, the most reliable arrest statistics come from California's Bureau of Criminal Statistics.)
We will now examine California's laws pertaining to marijuana. Section 11530 of the Health and Safety Code prohibits the possession of marijuana, which is defined as a narcotic. A recent District Court decision limited the amount possessed to a useable amount. What amount is "useable" is not clear: it varies from one narcotic drug to the next, but a 1966 decision held that fifty milligrams of marijuana was not a useable amount. Judges usually dismiss possession cases based on a single "roach." A first violation of Section 11530 calls for a one-to-ten-year prison sentence; a second-time offender will be punished by a two-to-ten-year sentence, and any subsequent violation calls for a five-year to life penalty.
Section 11530.5 of the Health and Safety Code penalizes the possessor of marijuana for the purpose of selling it. No fixed amount is stipulated that defines the amount necessary to constitute a violation, although if the marijuana is packaged, presumably the intention to sell is evident. A two-to-ten-year first offense sentence is imposed, while there is a five-to-fifteen-year sentence (with a three-year minimum) for the second offense. The third and subsequent offenses are punished by ten-years-to-life imprisonment with a six-year minimum. Section 11531 of the California Code covers selling (and giving away) marijuana. The first offense provides for a five-years-to-life penalty; the offender is ineligible for parole before three years. A second offense calls for a minimum penalty of five years, and a third-time offender must serve at least ten years before being considered for parole. Section 11532 stipulates that if an adult "hires, employs, or uses a minor in unlawfully transporting, carrying, selling, giving away, preparing for sale... any marijuana or who unlawfully sells, furnishes, administers, gives, or offers to sell, furnish, administer, or give any marijuana to a minor, or who induces a minor to use marijuana" is subject to ten years to life imprisonment.
The above offenses are felonies. The California statutes also provide for a variety of less serious misdemeanor penalties, for less serious offenses. For instance, marijuana use in California, or being under the influence of marijuana, is penalized by a ninety-day-to-one-year sanction (Section 11721). Another section (11556) rules it illegal to visit or be in a room or any place wherein marijuana is being used "with knowledge that such activity is occurring." The harshness of these penalties is mitigated by the fact that Section l202b of the California Penal Code grants discretion to the judge if the felon is under the age of twenty-three. Thus, many mandatory minimum sentences may be reduced to six months.
In 1962, Rhode Island stiffened its marijuana penalties. Possession of marijuana calls for a three-to-fifteen-year penalty; possession with the intent to sell, a ten-to-thirty-year penalty; the gift or sale of marijuana, a twenty-to-forty-year sentence; and the sale to anyone under twenty-one, a thirty-year-to-life penalty. Only first degree murder and treason carry such harsh penalties. Second degree murder, armed robbery, and rape are considered less serious under Rhode Island law than the sale of marijuana. Section 220.05 of the New York State Narcotics Laws holds the possession of any amount of marijuana to be a misdemeanor: a one-year penalty in prison. Section 220.15 rules that the possession of twenty-five or more marijuana cigarettes, or one ounce or more, is a felony: a four-year jail term. This section is comparable to California's Section 11530.5, possession with the intent to sell, and presumes that anyone with the stipulated quantities intends to sell. Actual sale is a seven-year penalty in New York, and sale to a minor, under twenty-one-years old, is a twenty-five-year felony. Several states (Georgia and Colorado) have the death penalty for selling marijuana to a minor.
Strategies of Enforcement: ArrestIn view of the extraordinarily high incidence of marijuana use and possession, these penalties might seem harsh, even barbaric. Let us look to see whether the provisions contained in the laws are carried out. If, as we pointed out earlier, one-fifth or one-quarter of America's college students have tried marijuana and if more will do so by the time they graduate, we are criminalizing the activities of several million human beings. The prisons of this country are insufficient to hold such immense numbers of inmates. What, then, are the patterns of enforcement of the marijuana laws?
It is a common belief in the marijuana subculture that the big-time, high-volume, large-scale profit dealer is protected by the police, largely because of pay-offs, and that the nondealing user and the petty low-volume dealers are arrested and convicted in order to give the police a respectable record. Rumors were rife after the massive raid at Stony Brook in February 1968, involving 200 policemen ("Operation Stony Brook") and two or three dozen college students, that the biggest dealers on the campus were not arrested, while all of those arrested were users or petty dealers.
The user often feels that arrests are motivated by personal or political reasons. A college student elaborates:The police don't bust Mafia dealers. The cops are too busy playing games with little people who just, like, go home and smoke a joint. But I guess these people are a threat. They look pretty scary in their long hair and nasty clothes and things like that (laughs). And besides a cop can't understand, when you get some dumb cop—even some smart cop, they're still dumb—but they can't understand how these longhaired faggot commie pinkos can, like, can even get laid. What could a girl see in a cat that's so fucked up? I think this has a lot to do with it. Because the drug movement is so sexual. These people, they just can't understand how this happens. And this really insults this cop. Seriously, 'cuz he's probably having trouble getting it from his wife once a week. And this whole thing—jealousy, man, is an animal instinct. It's all an extension, man, a sexual extension. The cops are a strange phenomenon. They go after the people that look weird, because they figure that probably, well, this is my guess, they figure that these are the kids that are into the revolution, they're obviously revolting in some way.
Many observers of the American drug scene disagree with this characterization and maintain that, on the whole, the actual implementation of the harsh penalties for marijuana possession are very rarely carried out, especially for small quantities obviously intended for one's own use. Former Commissioner Giordano has been quoted as saying that the chance that an apprehended college student with a single marijuana cigarette will actually be jailed "is absolutely nil."
In fact, the police will often express disinterest in arresting the marijuana dabbler, the once, twice or a dozen-time user. They say that their real target is the supplier, the dealer, the narcotics peddler who makes a profit on misery:Our Bureau is not interested in arresting the young student user especially those who become innocently involved. We are not interested in giving these youngsters a prison record which will hamper them throughout life, which will deny them, and society, professional careers. We are interested in getting at the source, the supplier, the pusher, the drugiteer, the rackiteer who is behind the distribution.... We are not interested in arresting students; we are interested in preventing... drugs from invading our campuses and student population; we are interested in apprehending the outside distributor who is working making the drugs available to our students; we are interested in protecting the bulk of the student population from being exposed to... drugs and from being innocently arrested or raided concerning violations or narcotics laws...
Doubtless most police officers do not take so tolerant and lenient a stand on marijuana use. (In fact, Bellizzi himself also stated, in the same paper just cited, "Every user is a potential danger to the general public.") The level at which the clearest distinction is made between the dealer (especially the large-scale dealer) and the user is at the federal level; even before the nullification of the "Marihuana Tax Act," most arrests at the federal level were for dealing, not for simple possession. At the locallevel, however, the officer is more likely to see a grave threat even in the occasional user, and will arrest anyone whose use is detected on whom he can make a reasonable case. However, as we will make clear shortly, a great deal is determined by the strategies chosen for detection.
Marijuana Arrests, State of California, 1960-1968
1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 Adult 4,245 3,386 3,433 4,883 6,323 8,383 14,209 26,527 33,573 Juvenile 910 408 310 635 1,237 1,619 4,034 10,987 16,754Source: State of California, Drug Arrests and Dispositions in California, 1967 (Sacramento: Department of Justice, Bureau of Criminal Statistics, 1968) pp. 4, 5, and 1968 Drug Arrests in California, Advance Report, April 1969, pp. 4, 6.In order to make the scope of the arrest picture clear, I present a table from California's official Drug Arrests and Dispositions in California, 1968 (the most recent year available). It is the total number of arrests for the years 1960-1968 on marijuana charges. We use California's data because they are the most reliable, complete and detailed. (In fact, this chapter could not have been written without this excellent set of yearly statistics.) We are struck at once by the massive increases in the number of arrests in the past few years—increases which, by all indications, will continue for the foreseeable future. The increase from 1960 to 1968 was about eight times for the adults and more than eighteen times for juveniles. The rise did not begin until 1964 or 1965, and in 1965-1966 and 1966-1967 the rises were enormous. In fact, so recent is the expansion of marijuana arrests that in a book published in 1965, Alfred R. Lindesmith whose data on marijuana arrests ended in 1962, claimed that on the federal level, "... the number of marihuana arrests has steadily declined and by 1960 it was close to the vanishing point...." In a table enumerating an admittedly incomplete count of marijuana arrests, federal, state, and local, for 1954, a grand total of 3,918 in the United States was listed. In 1967, in the county of Los Angeles alone, there were over four times as many marijuana arrests. In December 1967, there were almost as many California arrests on marijuana charges in one month as there were in the entire country for any entire year prior to 1960.
By any criterion, the number of arrests is enormous—except when compared with the number of users who are not arrested. The official who claims that marijuana use is generally tolerated and ignored by law enforcement agents does not have the facts. The claim that only dealers are arrested, too, is patently false. Included in the arrests are users of every "size." With these massive arrest figures, let us look at how users and sellers get arrested and what happens to their cases in court. Keep in mind that we are using California's data because they are the only useable ones available. We assume, however, that the California situation pertains in some degree (and in general, to an explicit degree) to what is valid in other states. California differs principally in the size of arrest figures, and the close acquaintance of its judges-with marijuana arrestees since they see so many of them. But the way most users and sellers are arrested, the trend of arrests, and their disposition, should not be radically different from that of the other states.
Detection of marijuana violations is typically extremely difficult. There is no victim and no complainant, so that systematic surveillance techniques inherently involve a certain loss of civil liberties. The success of any police venture is determined by various situational features having to do with the kinds of crimes that they are attempting to detect and prevent. For instance, it is obvious that acts conducted by two consenting adults who have a long-term relationship with one another, and who have no incentive to punish or discredit one another, conducted in privacy, are highly unlikely to be detected and sanctioned. On the other hand, acts perpetrated on many people by one person, previously unknown to them, in public, which they define as harmful, are highly likely to be detected, and the perpetrator punished for his act. Marijuana use, for instance, is clearly of the former type. It is generally conducted among intimates or semi-intimates, all of whom are compliant, in private; moreover, it rarely incurs negative consequences, at least in the microcosm of the single act of smoking during a single evening.
We would expect the ratio of undetected to detected acts relating to marijuana violations to be extremely high. Among our 204 respondents, we have a total of literally hundreds of thousands of instances of use, several thousand cases of sale and purchase, and tens of thousands of days of possession. That seven cases were brought to the attention of the law enforcement authorities indicates the low degree of access the police have to marijuana crimes. If we compare marijuana infractions with a high-access and high-victimization crime, such as murder, the contrast is dramatically clear. A tiny fraction of marijuana crimes, probably less than one one-hundredth of 1 percent, are detected with the violator arrested. With murder, probably over go percent of all violators are arrested and brought to trial. Even if we compare marijuana with another crime without a victim, narcotics possession and sale, the incidence of detection is extremely low. The narcotics addict must purchase heroin several times a day, in public. Even the heavy user of marijuana who does not sell for a profit will make a purchase once a month or so—one one-hundredth as often as the junkie—probably from a close friend, in an apartment, in a calm emotional atmosphere. He is, therefore, far less likely to be detected, and far less likely to be arrested.
It is therefore apparent that the police face serious logistic problems in apprehending the marijuana seller and user. To transcend the limitations and restrictions surrounding them, special efforts at detection must be made. Generally, the police have three methods at their disposal: informants, undercover agents, and patrol. The most common type of informant, in spite of frequent police denials, is the "arrestee informant." They cooperate with the police because they have themselves been arrested and promised lenience if they supply the names of marijuana violators known to them, usually their own dealers. The more names, and the bigger the names given to the police, the more lenient the police are. However, since most sellers known to the average marijuana user are probably his friends, this procedure is likely to bring conflicting pressures to bear on the suspect. It is not unknown for the informant to select the names not on the basis of the volume of sales, which is what the police are interested in, but on the basis of his attitude toward the person he is about to incriminate. The list of names often reaches down the distribution ladder, rather than up.
The use of the undercover agent is designed to allow the police to observe a criminal scene from inside. The agent poses as a user, seller, artist, poet, or student, and takes part in marijuana use and selling transactions himself. Often the agent will attempt to purchase progressively larger amounts from progressively bigger dealers to reach and eradicate the source, in which case, he will often ignore the petty dealers.
Another procedure is simply to arrest anyone on whom incriminating evidence has been gathered, as occurred with the Stony Brook arrests of 1968 and 1969. The agent will frequently use the technique of entrapment—i.e., request a purchase or sale himself, thus "creating" the crime de novo, although it is illegal. Often, instead of trying to make a case for selling, an extremely difficult proposition involving solid evidence, the agent will collect names on whom "probable cause" will be exercised—that is, their premises will be searched on the presumption that a quantity of marijuana will be found.
Actually, although these two methods, the use of informants and undercover agents, are dramatic and infamous in marijuana storytelling lore, they result in a small minority of arrests. A 100-page monograph published in the UCLA Law Review in 1968, based on 1966 data, attempted a complete exploration of marijuana arrests, carrying the cases down to their complete post-arrest disposition. I will rely heavily on this report, which I will call the Los Angeles study, in the following exposition. Much valuable information, not available anywhere else, is presented in this document. For instance, the Los Angeles study revealed that very few marijuana arrests are the result of preplanned strategy on the part of the police. In the sample of arrestees in the study, only 3 percent of the adult arrestees and 7 percent of the juveniles were the work of undercover agents, while 23 percent and 15 percent of the adult and juvenile arrests, respectively, resulted from information supplied by an informant. Thus, in three-quarters of the cases (74 percent of the adults and 79 percent of the juveniles) neither an informant nor an undercover agent was used. The overwhelming bulk of these cases, nearly all in fact, resulted from patrol enforcement, in general, by far the most common source of marijuana arrests. All indications point to the fact that the vast majority of all marijuana arrests are not the result of a systematic search, but accident. No arrest warrant was used in 92 percent of the Los Angeles adult cases, and no search warrant in 97 percent of the adult cases; in only four out of almost 200 juvenile cases was either used.
Another indication of the accidental and unplanned character of most marijuana arrests, in the Los Angeles study at least, is the fact that more arrests were made in the arrestee's automobile than anywhere else (45 percent for adults, and 36 percent for juveniles). Nearly all of these arrests were, obviously, fortuitous.
A person is driving an automobile, and he goes through a red light. The police give him a ticket, and they notice a marijuana cigarette in an ash tray....
... in the routine case, what happens is an automobile is stopped because the tail light is out, or something is wrong and there is a traffic violation, and, as a result of the accident, a small quantity of marijuana is discovered, and the people that are in the car are then arrested....
Often the marijuana in the car is visible. Often it is not. Many automobiles are stopped because the occupants look like candidates for a marijuana arrest; if no marijuana is visible, the automobile will be searched. The line between "probable cause" for an automobile search, and no probable cause, and an illegal search, is thin. The smell of marijuana smoke may constitute probable cause. A hand motion may be interpreted by the patrolman as a "furtive gesture," perhaps to throw a joint out of the car window. Or shoulder-length hair on a teenaged boy may inform the policeman that he is unconventional enough to smoke pot. Many of the signs interpreted by the arresting officer as probable cause will be rejected by the judge. Often automobile searches will be an instrument in systematic harassment, rather than motivated by the desire to make a case that will hold up in court. At any rate, hundreds of such illegal automobile searches are made routinely in New York's Greenwich Village and East Village. By the law of chance, a sizable number inevitably turn up a quantity of marijuana. Since the searches are done on those who are likely to be marijuana smokers as well as the young and unconventional, a legitimate protest against such harassment would be ineffective. It does, after all, secure a great many arrests. The New York police automatically search all parts of impounded and towed away, illegally parked cars for drugs, any area of the car, in fact, that they don't have to break into. This routinely gathers a large number of arrests, but the American Civil Liberties Union claims illegal search and seizure on all of these arrests and most are actually dismissed because of their illegal character.
Another large proportion of the arrestees were apprehended in a public place—21 percent of the adults and 35 percent of the juveniles. Public arrests are often the consequence of "stop and frisk" procedures, the suspect supposedly having given the arresting officer "probable cause" to be searched. Obviously, much of the same police conduct occurs with public arrests as those which take place in the automobile of the suspect. The remaining third or so (35 percent for adults; 29 percent for juveniles) of the arrests took place in a private place, most likely a house or apartment. Most of the "systematic" arrests, i.e., those which result from the work of an undercover agent or an informer, take place in a private establishment. However, probably most of these "private" arrests are also a result of accident. A common sequence of events is as follows: "... a person gets in bad company, or ends up at an address where they (the police) have some information about a loud party, and they go there and they smell marijuana smoke, and four or five, six, perhaps seven, people are arrested and complaints are issued and these people are charged with the crime of marijuana."
Obviously, the tactic used in law enforcement will influence the kind of suspect arrested; a change in methods will result in the capture of a different sort of person. Who gets arrested and who doesn't when arrests take place by accident or patrol harassment? It seems clear that because of their sheer numbers, these methods are likely to result in the arrest of a great many mere users. The frequent user-petty seller is vulnerable to arrest, simply because he is around marijuana most of the time, and any random moment he is approached by the police will find him possessing incriminating evidence. The large-scale dealer who does not use is highly unlikely to be arrested if random patrol methods are employed if he disposes of his goods quickly. In fact, since nearly all fairly regular marijuana smokers have a supply on hand for their own use, the prevailing arrest tactics are most likely to snare users; medium-to high-level dealers who have marijuana on hand continuously are only slightly more likely to be arrested than the regular user—who also has marijuana on hand most of the time, although generally, a smaller amount.
The present enforcement methods, not being designed to arrest the dealer, are unlikely to make a dent in the source of the drug and will only result in feelings of injustice among users who are arrested, since the seriousness of the crime bears a scant relationship to detection and arrest. In fact, since the ratio of undetected to detected crimes is so high with marijuana violations, the relatively few (which is large in absolute numbers) who are arrested will always ask, "Why me?" In California alone in 1968 there were 50,000 arrests on marijuana charges. What proportion of this figure could possibly have been large-scale dealers? How many were dabblers, teenagers who had tried the drug a few times and possessed a few joints for experimentation? (Over 16,000 of these arrests were under 18 years of age.) More felons are arrested on marijuana charges than for any other felony. At the same time, a lower proportion of marijuana felonies and felons are detected and arrested than possibly for any other felony. And probably in no other crime is there so loose a relationship between seriousness and likelihood of arrest. It is unlikely that the present tactics will do anything about eradicating the marijuana traffic, but at least by arresting so many users, the police will create an illusion that an effective enforcement job is being done.
Arrestees, remember, do not represent all users. We do not have a cross-section of users when we look at arrest statistics. There are certainly systematic differences between them. It is no contradiction to say that most arrests are accidental and, at the same time, to say that arrestees do not form a random sample of all users. To begin with, "accidental" is not the same thing as "random." When an automobile is stopped for some trivial reason, marijuana is stumbled upon, and the occupants are arrested—this is an accident. But it is not a random event. Over one-third of all marijuana arrests took place in an automobile. What about the users who never drive, or never drive when they are in possession of marijuana? Obviously they will be underrepresented in arrest figures. Or those that never, or almost never, carry marijuana in public—these users are also less likely to be arrested, appearing only infrequently in the composition of arrestees.
Most state and local marijuana violation arrests are for simple possession—83 percent of the adults and 87 percent of the juveniles in the Los Angeles study. Only g percent of all marijuana arrests, both adult and juvenile, were for sale, regardless of quantity. This is partly a reflection of the unsystematic character of patrol enforcement and partly a matter of a desire to make a case stick. In order to make a case for selling, actual undercover work must be done, which is rare. Often a known seller will be arrested simply for possession because that is far easier to prove. Only seven of my respondents were arrested on marijuana charges, so that we do not have a complete picture of how arrests are made and cases disposed of. However, we can examine their experiences as a reflection of general law enforcement processes. In addition to the seven who were formally arrested, one was apprehended, but not arrested, possibly because of the illegal nature of the apprehension. One individual (arrested twice) involved in smuggling was not arrested in the United States. One of the arrestees was judged at his trial not to be in technical possession of the marijuana (one roach!), and the charges were dismissed. Of the five remaining cases, one was arrested twice. None of the five was incarcerated for his crime; four received suspended sentences, and one was still awaiting trial at the time of the interview.
With all of our cases, the detection of the crime was fortuitous; in no case did an undercover agent seek out use and selling. We cite three typical examples of the police accidentally stumbling upon marijuana crimes:A friend of mine whom I turned on felt guilty and told his father about it. His father told the police, and the police followed him to my house. At four a.m., the police rang my doorbell, and, when I answered, beat me up, and then called my parents. I was adjudged a youthful offender, and placed on probation for 14 months.twenty-year-old college studentI was playing pool with another guy, and two cops walked in, took us outside, and searched us, me and my friend, and then they searched our car. One joint was in the car. We were searched illegally; we were handcuffed before they even found anything. The charge is going to be dropped because I'm getting a recommendation from a youth counselor.twenty-one-year-old clerk in a gift shopI was sent one joint from Mexico through the mail. The customs officials delivered the letter to my apartment in person—they had a search warrant—and said that they were going to search my apartment. But I went and got my supply, and gave it to them. They said that they were going to arrest me, but they were willing to cooperate if I did. I supplied them with a name of a dealer—knowing that he was leaving for Canada that day. I wasn't arrested.nineteen-year-old female clerk in a bookstore
Post-Arrest DispositionArrest is only the first step in a long legal process. The questions involved in the post-arrest disposition are often extremely complex and technical. The policeman, who operates on the basis of simple guilt or innocence, is frustrated and angered to see one of his cases dismissed on a minor technicality, feeling that the lawyers and judges are trying to abort law and order. However, these formalities were designed to protect the possibly innocent suspect, and they usually err on the side of being overly generous in letting many probably guilty suspects go free, rather than making the mistake of jailing a few possibly innocent suspects. That this happens to such a degree with marijuana charges points to the fact that many judges, district attorneys, and lawyers have lost faith in the justice of the marijuana statutes. A certain degree of leeway is allowed the public officials after arrest; where many decisions are resolved in favor of the suspect, we are forced to accept the conclusion that the prosecuting officials do not support the laws as they stand.
By making the arrest, the policeman is registering his presumption as to the guilt of the arrested party. Actually, in the overwhelming majority of the cases, he will be correct. The suspects he arrests are almost certainly guilty of some marijuana-related crime, if not at that instance, then probably at some other time. Anyone around a quantity of marijuana, who associates with marijuana smokers, who is arrested along with others who use, possess, and sell the stuff, is highly likely to have used, possessed, and sold at some time or another. The innocent suspect in the typical marijuana arrest is extremely rare; the suspect who, by some outlandish accident, happens to find himself, at the time of the arrest, for the first time in his life, among users, and is suddenly arrested, is almost nonexistent. Each arrest has a history of use behind it. Each arrest has built into it a past of marijuana crimes which carry with them heavy penalties. The arresting officer is dead right in his assumptions, and is consistent in his actions. The technicalities of court law obstruct his design. If guilt is certain, why not prosecute? If the law is on the books, why not back it up? If they are not firmly supported by the actors involved in the post-arrest procedures, then why have them in the books?Post-arrest disposition consists of procedural steps leading from the arrest of the marijuana pusher or user to his imprisonment. At any one of these stages, the arrestee may be freed from having to proceed to the next step. The attorney may refuse to file a complaint against him; the judge at the preliminary hearing may refuse to "hold the defendant to answer" a complaint that has been filed; the trial judge (or jury) may find the defendant innocent; and finally, the defendant may be released on probation.
There are two types of factors which influence the district attorney and the judge in deciding whether to release the arrestee at any of the above stages. The first type of factors are those which the law requires the trier of fact to consider in determining guilt.... In marijuana offenses these include the legality of a search, sufficiency of the evidence, and knowledge on the part of the arrestee that he possessed marijuana....
[The] other factors which either the judge or district attorney may consider in making his decision to release... include the defendant's age his attitude, his previous contact with the law, his family situation, and what the judge or district attorney believes to be his moral culpability.
Great discretion, then, is permitted judges in marijuana cases. Some who believe that marijuana use and sale are antisocial acts rarely initiate dismissal procedures; others are known for being lenient. Generally, small-town judges will dismiss less often than those in urban centers. There is probably a positive relationship between the frequency of marijuana cases brought before a judge and the likelihood of dismissal. In the Los Angeles study, 12 percent of the cases brought before the district attorney for filing were rejected, and the arrestee freed; in addition, 14 percent were rejected at the preliminary hearings. Half of the cases wherein the judge dismissed the disposition before him and refused to hold the defendant to answer the complaint were because the police searched the defendant's person or apartment on no "probable cause," i.e., the search was random and unprovoked; the defendant was doing nothing which could have aroused the arresting officer's suspicion, and the search was illegal. About one-third of the dismissals were for insufficient evidence, a handful were dismissed on the basis of entrapment, and a few were dismissed because the amount possessed was insufficient (a few seeds, traces, or a roach). (Judges usually have an informal "one joint" rule on the sufficiency of the amount; a roach is technically useable, but few urban judges prosecute on that amount.)
Very few cases go before a jury; over 95 percent of the adult Los Angeles cases were tried before a judge. Defendants rightly feel that a judge who sees marijuana cases daily takes the seriousness of the offense more lightly than do members of a jury, who are far more likely to be ignorant of the immensity and extent of use today among the young. About two-thirds of the adult Los Angeles cases which finally reached the trial stage were adjudged guilty. This represents slightly under one-third of all arrests.
Of all the California adult marijuana dispositions registered in the official state statistics—in other words all of the dispositions which took place in the entire state of California—handled in 1967 (some of which were arrested that year, and some earlier), slightly over half, 56 percent, were released, dismissed, or acquitted, and one third (35 percent) were convicted. Marijuana arrestees received much more lenient treatment at the hands of California judges than heroin suspects, 40 percent of whom had their cases dropped while 44 percent were convicted.
Of the adult convictees, 59 percent of those who were arrested on possession charges were "convicted as charged," while 41 percent were convicted on a lesser drug charge. For those charged with sale, 48 percent were convicted as charged, and 52 percent were convicted on a lesser charge. (Sale is more difficult to prove.) Of these almost 4,ooo possession convictions, 44 percent received "straight probation," and 34 percent received a combination of probation and a minor jail sentence. Those convicted of marijuana sale were not quite so fortunate; 23 percent received probation, and 46 percent got probation and jail. Only 10 percent of the possession convictees received a straight jail or prison sentence; and 20 percent of the sale convictees got the same.
Looking at the yearly trend, we see clearly that probation is becoming increasingly common. In 1961, under 50 percent of the adult convictees got either straight probation or a combination of probation and a light jail sentence; in 1967, the figure was almost 80 percent. It seems apparent that judges are gradually losing faith in jail sentences in rehabilitating marijuana users; they are increasingly thinking of marijuana infractions, particularly simple possession and use, as trivial offenses not worthy of a prison sentence. Of the variables which most strongly influence the granting of probation, probably the convictee's prior arrest record influences judges the most. Of all the adults convicted for marijuana possession, with no prior sentences, 65 percent received straight probation, with no jail sentence; for those with a record as a minor, 49 percent got only probation; for those with an adult record, only 25 percent received probation; and for those who actually had a prior prison record, 16 percent got probation. The percentage getting a prison or jail sentence was 2 percent, 6 percent, 17 percent, and 41 percent for each of these categories, respectively.
Even a consideration of the incarceration sentences reveals more leniency than would be assumed from the length of sentences that are called for in the law books. Well over a third (39 percent) of the adult marijuana possession convictees who received a jail sentence served less than three months. (Most of these received these light sentences in conjunction with probation.) Only 13 percent received jail sentences lasting more than nine months. However those convicted on sale charges received sentences comparable to heroin possession sentences; about one-quarter of both got the less than three-month sentences, and about the same amount received sentences of more than nine months.
Many judges take an arrestee's attitude of remorse seriously, even though users are likely to adopt a cynical and mocking attitude toward their own rehabilitation, which they consider a cruel joke. Since very few users think of marijuana use as a problem, they may adopt a pose of penitence for utilitarian purposes. During the months after the 1968 raid on the Stony Brook campus, which netted two dozen student users, a program was set up which resembled Synanon, and was designed to rehabilitate and "redeem" the marijuana user. The program was viewed by users and nonusers alike as a pathetic farce, but the arrestees participated in it because they believed that their presiding judge would be merciful as a result. It is this kind of thinking that led one lawyer-observer of the pot scene to write:It is important for the defendant to have a cooperative attitude with the probation officer.... Stable employment, conforming dress and sincere remorse for having broken the law, combined with a positive plan for future rehabilitation must be presented.... One who stands convicted of a crime cannot expect lenient treatment if he goes before those who are about to sentence him with the attitude that his actions are acceptable and the law is wrong. Such an expression would probably encourage any judge, otherwise disposed to grant probation, to allow the offender to spend a substantial amount of time in jail to think about, and possibly modify, his attitude. It is better to play it cool.
Arrest as a Status TransformationLegal agencies have the power to define legal reality. They can, of course, create laws and criminals de novo. But in a narrower sense, the legal process is successful to the extent that it either (1) compels the individual to accept society's version of himself as in fact criminal, i.e., criminal in more than a technical sense, a person deserving of society's scorn and punishment, or (2) discredits the individual in important areas of his life, impugning his trustworthiness, moral rectitude, and integrity for many members of society. An arrest is able to do at least the latter. There are, of course, those for whom an arrest is a mark of honor, or at least has no moral significance. But public exposure is often unavoidable in an arrest. Consequently, one's private life is subject to public scrutiny. Surveillance involves encroachments of privacy. Policemen rarely make the fine distinctions between uncovering necessary evidence and a wholesale invasion of privacy.
Being suspected of committing a crime, being under surveillance, having one's dwelling and/ or person searched, being arrested, booked, brought to trial, and (if it comes to that) convicted, not to mention the nature of one's experiences in a penitentiary, all serve as public degradation ceremonies.
The legal apparatus has immense power to determine the nature of a felon's public and private presentation. Although this is a variable and not a constant, in all likelihood he sees himself as a man who has done something which is technically against the law, but which in no way qualifies him for a criminal status, for "true" criminality. He may not see himself as being "a criminal." Nor does society, not knowing about his crimes. Marijuana users often state that they "don't think of marijuana use as a crime." But going through the procedure of being arrested impresses in the mind of the offender the view that one powerful segment of society (and perhaps, by extension, society in general) has of his activity's legality.
In other words, the elaborate legal procedure, and its attendant social implications, serve as a kind of dramaturgic rite de passage, which serves to transform the transgressor publicly into a criminal into "the kind of person who would do such a thing." Although many going through the ritual will reject the definition of them imposed by the process, it nonetheless leaves its impress.
Formal Law, Substantive Law, and Law EnforcementA common argument against marijuana use involves its legal status. Aside from the debate concerning its dangers, or lack thereof, to the human mind and body, the single irreducible fact regarding marijuana which is universally agreed upon is that its use, possession, and sale are illegal. The opponents of marijuana use this as an effective weapon in their dialogue with the drug's advocates. Regardless of one's point of view on marijuana, it is outlawed. Everyone who uses it is a criminal, someone subject to the risk of arrest and imprisonment who should expect to be punished.
Actually, this argument fails under close scrutiny. Many laws— perhaps most laws—are not enforced. Formal law, law as it exists on the books, is very different from substantive law, law as it is actually enforced. The breach of some laws engenders widespread moral outrage, while the enforcement of other laws incurs that same public wrath. "It's the law" can never be an excuse for sanctioning an act, because "the law" is a hodge-podge of archaic long-forgotten, and ignored statutes that are never executed, along with those that are respected and daily enforced. Masturbation is illegal in a number of states (Pennsylvania, for instance), and in Indiana and Wyoming, it is criminal to encourage a person to masturbate. In forty-five states, adultery is illegal; Connecticut calls for five-year imprisonment upon prosecution. Mere fornication is a crime in thirty-eight states, and a breach of this law theoretically carries a fine of $500 or two-years imprisonment, or both. Many states dictate the manner in which one may make love to one's spouse; cunnilingus and fellatio, for instance, are against the law in many legal jurisdictions. In view of the near-universality of masturbation among men and the fact that a majority of all couples marrying today engaged in premarital intercourse, the virtual absence of any prosecution for these crimes is remarkable. Although sanctioning all crimes without victims entails severe problems of logistical detection, with adultery at least, divorce suits constitute a fertile field. In New York state, where until recently adultery was the only legitimate grounds for divorce, thousands of divorces have been filed and granted in the past few years, yet almost no one is ever prosecuted for this crime.
The enforcement of certain laws, therefore, cannot be taken for granted. Enforcement is problematic. Thus, when a law is enforced, it is necessary to ask why. What is it that differentiates those laws that are enforced and those that are not enforced? The argument that a man should refrain from performing certain kinds of sexual acts with his wife, because "it's the law," is never invoked. Yet this same argument holds up in marijuana debates. Surely, it is not the formal status of the marijuana laws that dictates their enforcement, but attitudes toward its use prevailing among the public, law enforcement officers, and agents which make leniency improbable. Rather than a matter of formal laws, marijuana enforcement is a matter of morality.
The marijuana laws are an example of the many "crimes without victims," an effort to legislate morality. There is no victim, no complainant. The use of marijuana harms no one except the user. (And there is question whether the user is harmed.) The marijuana laws represent an example of the criminalization of deviance. The legal machinery creates, by fiat, a class of criminals. If a law is annulled, criminals magically become law-abiders. Prior to 1961, homosexual acts were a crime in Illinois; after that, they were legal. It is the law that creates the crime.
Yet, someone who violates a law is not necessarily a criminal, at least, he is not viewed so by society. He must violate a law which is more than formally illegal. Public attitudes toward the law must be supportive, and toward its violators, condemnatory. Arrest reinforces society's negative attitudes toward illegalized behavior, and arrest is facilitated, and made more likely, if society condemns, as well as illegalizes, the behavior in question.
Every society is in varying degrees made up of disparate subcultures with competing versions of reality; the larger and more complex the society, the greater the corresponding diversity of subcultures in that society. Yet power is never distributed in any society randomly; members of some subcultures will always have more than members of others. And, although power over someone is by definition linear and hierarchical, subcultures are mosaic and incommensurable. Given the diversity of subcultures, some sort of effort has to be made in effectively neutralizing power challenges from members of another group not in power, or legitimating the validity of one special definition of reality. Differential power and its exercise represents attempts at moral hegemony, rather than simply protection and extension of economic interests. Society is rent by large groups of individuals who simply see right and wrong in radically different ways. And many individuals have a powerful emotional investment in the dominance of one particular subcultural point of view. These are the moral entrepreneurs, the cultural imperialists who wish to extend their way of life to all members of society, regardless of the validity of that way of life for the individual or group in question.
Although laws exist merely as a potentiality for sanctioning, the mere fact that a norm, regardless of whether it has any general community support, has been formally crystallized into law, makes a great deal of difference as to whether any given individual will be penalized for an activity condemned by the dominant culture. Since each subculture has differential access to the formal agencies of social control, a norm can have lost legitimacy for a majority of the citizenry, and yet there will be some individuals who continue to regard the law as just and legitimate, who happen to be in a position of determining and defining the legal process, and are therefore able to sanction in the absence of general societal licitness. Laws and formal agencies of social control may be thought of as a resource in the hands of one subculture to enforce their beliefs on other, dissident subcultures. So powerfully is this the case that members of a group may be punished, ostensibly for an act which is in fact illegal, but in reality for another act which is not formally illegal, but which the wielders of social control find repugnant. Known political radicals are often arrested for marijuana possession by evangelistic law enforcement officers, frustrated because most forms of politically radical activity are not formally illegal.
Clearly, however, most of the laws that are enforced have a high degree of moral legitimacy. But legitimacy is a matter of degree; the more widespread and deeply held a given norm is, the greater the likelihood that its transgression will be effectively sanctioned. The moral legitimacy of a given norm can be looked at as another resource in the hands of moral entrepreneurs to punish dissident groups.
It is, of course, highly relevant who accepts the norm. The ability to translate infractions into sanctions is differentially distributed throughout the social structure. Among some subgroups in a given society there will be a closer correspondence between their own norms and the law. Norms apply more heavily to subgroup and subculture members, but laws generally apply to all. It is likely that those groups which exhibit the greatest identity between norms (their own) and the laws are specifically those groups that have the greatest power to effect sanctions.
Moral entrepreneurs, of course, think of their work as protective in nature. They see their task as protecting society from the damaging effects of the criminal behavior, and the individual committing the criminal acts from damaging himself. There is the attempt, then, to extend beyond a simple prohibition of an act because it is "immoral," within the confines of a specific moral code; there is the further assertion that the act causes objectively agreed-upon damage to the individual transgressor himself, as well as to the society at large. Yet the very perception of the act as immoral structures one's perceptions concerning the actual occurrence of the "objectively agreed-upon" damage.
The Law and the Question of LegalizationThe question is often raised as to the justness of the marijuana statutes, arrests, and sentences. A legal advisor to the Bureau of Narcotics wrote, in a prepared speech before the National Student Association: "With the exception of fringe elements in society, represented by confessed users, few authorities take issue with the present prohibitory scheme." This charge was absurd in 1967; today it is even more so. In fact, aside from employees of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, as well as other law enforcement agencies, the present legal structure has the support of very few. Many of the drug's toughest critics such as Donald B. Louria, advocate a considerable reduction in penalties on use and possession ("so that a minor crime is punished by a minor penalty"), an absolute elimination of the penalties for being in a place where marijuana is smoked, but a retention of the existing penalties for sale and importation. (Louria calls his suggestions "the middle road.") And in a recent government publication, the appropriateness of the federal penalties on marijuana and the basic antimarijuana arguments were seriously called into question; this federal scrutiny of marijuana was made specifically because "the law has come under attack on all counts."
Huge segments of the American population feel that the legal ban on marijuana use and possession should be lifted. There is not a majority in any geographical locale, but this sentiment has powerful support among many social segments—the young, for instance. There are probably age categories where close to a majority support some version of legalization. Certainly a referendum of college students, if effected, would call for a considerable reduction in the existing penalties; probably at least a sizable minority of all college students in a national survey would endorse outright legalization. However, a clear majority of college students support legalization in some form or another in a great many schools, especially those in or near urban centers—UCLA, California Institute of Technology and Stony Brook, for instance. A recent referendum at the last of these schools, showed the following degree of support for various legalization alternatives: (see Table 11-2).
It is necessary to consider some fundamental questions. What do we want the laws to do? What is the purpose of the existing penalty structure? What are we trying to achieve by punishing the use, possession, and sale of marijuana? These questions are neither rhetorical nor scornful. By asking them, I am calling for a sincere, hard look at the laws and their basic underlying assumptions. If we have been deluded about how they work, perhaps it is time for a reassessment of their status.
Support for Legalization at Stony Brook (percent)
"What changes in state and federal marijuana laws would you make?"
Increase penalties for sale and possession 7 No change 14 Decrease only penalties for possession 12 Abolish penalties for possession, and retain some penalty for sale 9 Restricted legalization (state licensing of distributors, sale only to adults, etc.) 38 Complete unrestricted legalization 21 N = 2,435
As I see it, the laws against marijuana have at least the following five functions (which bear with them correlative assumptions about criteria of effectiveness): (1) deterrence, (2) rehabilitation, (3) public safety, (4) vengeance, and (5) symbolic representation.
The first three of these functions are what might be called "instrumental" goals, and the last two are "expressive." Deterrence, public safety, and rehabilitation are goals whose attainment can, within the very severe limitations of bias and differential perception—which influence everyone at all times—at least ideally be determined. Of course, the public image of a given reality may be wildly different from the image that a panel of disinterested experts would have (were it possible to find them). Who determines whether and to what extent goals have been attained? Thus, the criteria for effectiveness, and the determination of whether the goals have been reached, although ideally perceptible, in practice become somewhat muddied. But we should be able to see, in theory, at least, that the first three of these goals are tangible. The last two are not tangible. We can establish whether punishment rehabilitates the user, but it is impossible to determine the effectiveness of the vengeance or the symbolism criterion. It is not that the task would be too imposing; it is that they are ends in themselves, given in the nature of things—for some observers—and they must be either accepted or rejected outright. Their rightness or wrongness depends entirely on intangibles, on emotion, sentiment, predisposition.
At first glance, a consideration of the first goal, deterrence, might seem a vain issue, after even the most cursory glance at the enormity of the arrest statistics. To the 50,000 California marijuana arrests in 1968, we have those of every state—none so great in number, singly, as California, but altogether at least doubling and possibly tripling the figure for the whole country.
What of 1969 and 1970? Deterrence? Who, indeed, is being deterred? But consider the question of whether the use of marijuana would not actually be even higher were the drug legalized. The assumption about use being stimulated by the thrill of breaking the law—the "forbidden fruit" hypothesis—has no validity. Most users are not attracted by the risk of incarceration, on the contrary, most use marijuana in spite of the risks. Some psychiatrists feel that lawbreakers feel guilty about imagined past transgressions and seek a means to be punished. Such psychiatric judgments can often be used as an instrument to attack any and all protests of the existing legal structure. By giving scientific legitimation to such psychiatric claims concerning deviants, a case is made for slavish conformity to the law. Perhaps some psychiatrists' patients fit this description, but as a general characterization of marijuana users, it is clearly in error. Not only would the number who try the drug once or a dozen times be much greater were it legal and readily available, but regular (or "chronic") use would claim far more participants as well.
Concerning our deterrence criterion, we are impelled to ask: Are the laws "working"? The answer does not come easily; how we answer it depends on our notion of what constitutes the criteria of effectiveness. The marijuana laws probably work more ineffectively than laws against any activity which is taken seriously enough to draw a penalty regularly. That does not mean that some, or many, potential users are not deterred. In a classic work written over three-quarters of a century ago, The Division of Labor in Society, Emile Durkheim wrote that society's enforcement of the law has an effect on those who are punished less than on those who are not—that is, those who might violate the law otherwise. In a sense, those who go to jail are "sacrifices" in order to serve the function of deterring their peers. And potential marijuana users are deterred in massive numbers by the example of arrests and punishment meted out to the less cautious. Exactly how many are deterred, and how many the law fails to deter, is impossible to determine. We can safely say, however, that the deterrence function is breaking down yearly. I suspect that marijuana's appeal is greater to the young than that of alcohol. Therefore, I would say that were all restrictions removed, the under-twenty-five-years of age range would use cannabis more than liquor today. Furthermore, I would guess that a significant proportion would continue to use it into their 30s and 40s. In other words, I think that marijuana would eventually partly supplant liquor as an intoxicant, were it legal and as available. Seen in this light, the laws have a powerful deterrent impact.
Marijuana users, as we might expect, do not want to be rehabilitated. This is not true of many lawbreakers who are caught. Narcotics addicts are extremely ambivalent about their addiction; many have a sincere desire to kick the habit—although very few do. Not so with marijuana smokers. They feel that they have no "habit" to begin with. They will claim that they can give it up any time. It is not a problem with most users. They will simply not see the point of "rehabilitation." It would be like suddenly defining sexual activity as a dependency, and attempting to rehabilitate those who wish to indulge in sex; they would ask, "What for?"
Arrestees are likely to be puzzled or angered by a marijuana sentence. They are, to a considerable degree, isolated from the dominant American ideology on pot and deeply involved in their own subculture's conception of it as harmless and beneficial. Moreover, the relatively few (but absolutely, many) users who are arrested gives them cause for the accusation of distributive injustice. Rehabilitation is predicated on the notion that the transgressor thinks of his transgression as wrong. Users often give up use of the weed after arrest but for practical reasons, not out of a desire to rid themselves of a nasty habit. To demonstrate these assertions, a study of arrestees would have to be made. In the absence of such a study, two users who were arrested or who are serving prison sentences for violation of the marijuana statutes voice reactions to their legal experiences:
It's rather discouraging to spend time in jail for the "crime" of possessing a weed. I haven't hurt anybody, I haven't stolen from anybody, I haven't raped anybody's daughter. Why am I in jail? I don't feel like a criminal.
I committed a charitable act.... I agreed to turn this poor cat onto some grass at his request. He promptly turned me in.
This silly grass law is only one small reflection of the mentality that rules America and dictates what we can read, what we can think and what position we must use when we make love.
My love to all the gentle people. Our day is coming.
Having been convicted of selling five dollars' worth of seeds and stems to an informer, I am currently serving a twenty-to-thirty year sentence....
... my bail was set at $4s,ooo—an impossible sum for me to raise. So I sat in jail for four months before being tried. There were twenty-five other marijuana arrests in [the]... County in the past two years, but I am the only one who has been sent to the penitentiary. Why this special treatment for me?
Law enforcement officers, however, often feel rehabilitation to be a worthy goal. Often a judge's sentence will hinge on his feeling that a jail sentence actually serves a rehabilitation function. We are reminded of Lindesmith's description of one such case:... an occasional judge, ignorant of the nature of marihuana, sends a marihuana user to prison to cure him of his nonexistent addiction. The writer was once in court when a middle-aged Negro defendant appeared before the judge charged with having used and had in his possession one marihuana cigarette during the noon hour at the place where he had worked for a number of years. This man had no previous record and this fact was stated before the court. Nevertheless, a two-year sentence was imposed to "dry up his habit."
What, in fact, are the effects of arrests, convictions, and jail sentences on users? Are they as likely to use again as they would if they were never arrested? This is, obviously, impossible to answer. Nor can we compare their later arrest figures with the arrest figures of a comparable group which was not arrested when they were. (We don't know the base figure—i.e., the total number of users we are making the comparison with.) Since a small percentage of marijuana arrests were arrested before—two-thirds of the 1967 California arrestees had no prior arrest record and a fifth had a "minor" record—we are not struck at once by any evidence of obvious recidivism. Over a third of the heroin arrestees in California and almost two-thirds of the "narcotic addict or user" arrests had either a major record or a prison sentence in his past. We know then that an immense percentage of heroin users are not "rehabilitated." We cannot draw such an obvious inference with marijuana users, since recidivistic arrests are so much lower for them.
In the absence of proper data, some guessing here may be justified. I would suspect that they use marijuana less after their arrest than they would have had they not been arrested. How much less? Two-thirds? Half? Enough to make it worthwhile? If rehabilitation is an absolute goal, then any degree of reduction is a positive gain. Viewed in this light, the laws are effective, merely because they bring about some degree of reduction in use. In this special sense, the judges may be right.
Some penologists are of the opinion that incarceration may have a subtle criminogenic effect. By being sent to prison along with professional criminals, drug addicts, and the violent, a lawbreaker with little or no commitment to crime as a "way of life" will absorb many attitudes, practices, and skills which will contribute to their post-release criminality. In a sense, prisons train people to become criminals. There is no doubt that this process occurs with juvenile delinquents. I suspect that marijuana users are well-insulated and sufficiently emotionally involved in their own subculture, which basically frowns on professional and violent forms of criminality, to be to some degree immune from such influences. Perhaps, however, this applies only to the middle-class, college-educated marijuana smoker who finds himself in prison. Blumer, in a study of marijuana in the ghetto, claims that a prison term is decisive in turning an ordinary pothead to a life of "hustling" criminality.The player is to be seen... as an enterprising member of the adolescent drug world, alive to opportunities to get money by small-time dealing in drugs, ready to engage in a variety of other illicit sources of monetary profit, and strongly attracted toward moving into a full time job of hustling by associating with hustlers and learning of their hustling practices. It should be noted here that the most effective way of getting such practical work knowledge is through prison experience. If he is incarcerated he is likely to be thrown into contact with older and more experienced hustlers who, if they identify him as safe and acceptable, are almost certain to pass on accounts of their experience.
We suspect that prison incarceration is more decisive than any other happening in riveting the player in the direction of a hustling career.
However, whether this process occurs at all, and it is certain to do so in some degree, it occurs with breakers of all laws, not only those concerned with marijuana.
Consideration of the public-safety issue is even more complex and unanswerable than the deterrence effect of the laws. Suppose marijuana were legalized: would society experience more damage than it does now? As stated in earlier chapters, this depends entirely on one's notions of what constitutes "damage." There are effects that some members of society would consider favorable which others would consider society's downfall. We need not go into this argument here. But what about those effects which all or nearly all members of society would consider damaging? Certain effects are nonpolitical; for instance, death, insanity, automobile accidents, lung cancer, violence, and brain and tissue damage. Are we contributing to public safety by outlawing pot? To begin with, the addition of another intoxicant to liquor would not be additive. (See Louria's argument on this.) The evidence suggests that, although the user is more likely to drink liquor than the nonuser, he cuts down on consumption of liquor after his use of marijuana. Schoenfeld writes: "The incoherent vomit-covered drunk was a common sight in college infirmaries a few years ago. He is now rarely seen on campuses where students have switched to marijuana." Seymour Halleck, another physician, comes up with the same answer:Perhaps the one major effect of the drug is to cut down on the use of alcohol. In the last few years it is rare for our student infirmary to encounter a student who has become aggressive, disoriented, or physically ill because of excessive use of alcohol. Alcoholism has almost ceased to become a problem on our campuses.
Tod Mikuriya, a physician, has recommended (not supplied) marijuana to his alcoholic patients, and claims improvement for them when the substitution is made. And Blum's data suggest that regular marijuana smokers have decreased their alcohol consumption markedly, and the more they smoke, the more they cut down on liquor.
It would, therefore, be improper to add the damaging effects that (we know) result from alcohol to those which (we suppose) will result from pot. Were marijuana legal, a great percentage of liquor drinkers, possibly some alcoholics, would desert their liquid intoxicant for the burning weed. In one sense, though, the result would be additive: we would have a greater total number than presently who become intoxicated. That is, the number who become high on marijuana (whether once, twice, occasionally, or regularly) plus the number who become drunk, would be greater than the two figures now. There are certainly many who would like to get high from time to time who do not now because of the laws, but who do not like to drink. Thus, the figure who use some intoxicant would increase were pot legalized, but it would be far lower than the additive effect of all those who now use liquor added to all those who might use pot.
If we want to consider the effect of the marijuana laws on public safety, we are therefore faced with the prospect of comparing the relative merits of alcohol and marijuana. As stated earlier, marijuana users cite the comparison as a powerful argument in the drug's favor, while physicians dismiss the argument. Where does that leave us?
In terms of tissue damage, the evidence is clear; no sane observer of the American drug use scene would claim for marijuana the ravaging effect that alcohol has. Daily moderately heavy usage of American or Mexican cannabis, say, six joints a day, produces no known bodily harm. (But we must remember that we have no valid studies of potsmokers which span any length of time.) Daily moderately heavy use of alcohol—the quantity comparable to the amount of marijuana which would intoxicate the user for an equal length of time, i.e., the whole day, would be about half a quart a day—will destroy, threaten or damage most of the body's vital organs over a long period of time. In terms of auto accidents, the evidence we have suggests a gain. The drunk driver behind the wheel is far more of a threat and a danger than the high pothead. Empirical tests show that alcohol discoordinates the driver far more than marijuana—if it occurs with marijuana at all. Decrease in aggression, violence, and crime, too, would be only a positive gain. Alcohol moreover is often directly linked with the commission of crime; far from inciting crime, marijuana, contrastingly, possibly inhibits it. Our speculations on insanity would have to be even less firmly grounded in known fact than those for tissue damage, automobile accidents, and violence, but marijuana would have to strive to catch up with alcohol's record; one of four admissions to a mental hospital is an alcoholic. Here, too, I think, the use of pot would be a clear gain.
The members of the antipot contingent who claim that alcohol is preferable to marijuana, and that legalization would be nothing but a disaster for this or any nation, do have a single telling point, as I see it. This is that marijuana is always used to become intoxicated, or high, and alcohol is often, indeed, perhaps most of the time, used for nonintoxicatory purposes. Alcoholic substances are frequently consumed on many occasions where the drinker does not become drunk or intoxicated. For instance, at many sporting events—football and baseball games—several bottles of beer may be drunk by a spectator without effect. The same may be said for wine at a meal, cocktails (sometimes) at a party, or sherry as a nightcap. Of course, many marijuana smokers do drink liquor, beer, and wine, on those very occasions in which the drinker also drinks them; drinking alcohol and smoking pot are not disjunctive and mutually exclusive activities. The very people who use one often use the other as well on those occasions when it may seem more appropriate. In fact, marijuana smokers are more likely to drink alcoholic beverages than nonsmokers are.* It is entirely possible that the legalization and widespread availability of marijuana will not necessarily result in a greater number of total events in which people wish to become intoxicated simply because users will continue to use pot selectively as they presently do. They become high when they feel that the occasion calls for it and use the same (potentially intoxicating) substances that the rest of society does, in moderation, when they feel that the occasion calls for that as well. However, it is an empirical question which can not be answered beforehand as to whether those specific occasions where alcohol is now consumed without intoxication will eventually call for marijuana use. I suspect that potsmokers will continue to follow the same sorts of patterns in liquor consumption that their nonsmoking peers do, drinking their beer, wine, and sherry as a pleasant companion to other pleasant activities. The appropriateness of one's agent of choice is defined by the social group that uses it, and many occasions do not call for getting high.
But what of the other side? What social costs do we have to consider when examining the damages the present policy is causing? To begin with an issue most Americans assume that they are hard-headed and pragmatic about—money and resources—we would have to admit that the present policies are extremely costly. The deployment of huge numbers of law enforcement officers in the effort to stop pot use and sales necessarily takes resources away from heroin and amphetamine traffic. In this sense, the present laws encourage the use of truly dangerous drugs. And the court costs of processing a single marijuana case can be, and often are, staggering, and the number of cases handled every year in this country are beginning to run over l00,000. How many millions of dollars do we feel is worth spending? In addition, the laws contribute to a great deal of resentment on both sides. The police realize that they are enforcing a law without ideological support from large segments of the public. The murderer never questions the right of the police to arrest him; the marijuana user questions the legitimacy of the law, and thus, the police and the entire legal process. By multiplying the areas in which the police are expected to enforce the law, a variety of paranoia develops among the police—in Jerome Skolnick's terms,they begin to see "symbolic assailants" in the populace. In the sense that they would be able to concentrate on truly dangerous crimes, as well as crimes on which there is public support for their prohibition, the police would score a clear gain were marijuana use to be relegalized.
The damages to an individual traceable to the effects of marijuana are minimal when compared with the damages he sustains at the hands of the legal system.Marijuana use and possession probably represents—next to numerous sex crimes without victims, such as cunnilingus—the clearest case where the penalty is incommensurate with the seriousness of the crime. In most cases, the user suffers no damage whatsoever from the use of this weed. In the typical case, it is a harmless activity. Arguments will often be made, particularly by the police, that, of course, in the typical case, marijuana use is relatively innocuous, but that is only because of the relative innocuousness of currently available marijuana. If the user were to get his hands on really potent cannabis—North African hashish, for instance—some serious damage would manifest itself. Thus, what is being done is to punish someone for something which is essentially harmless because if he weren't punished, he might do something which is harmful. (Even assuming that there are such great differences in harm to users due to the varying potency different of cannabis preparations.) To my knowledge, this principle is not applied to any other area of law.
Moreover, no solid case has been made for the prohibition. In 1937, not a scrap of evidence existed for justifying the passage of the federal law. Today, over a generation later, the fairest statement that could be made is that adequate systematic evidence definitively testing the relative harm of this drug has simply not been gathered. And if a deprivation of liberties is to be imposed, a conclusive case has to be made, as Justice Goldberg declared in Griswold v. Connecticut The burden of proof is clearly on he who would deprive liberties, not he who would exercise them.
It should be realized that although these "empirical" issues of public safety, rehabilitation, and deterrence are useful for rhetorical purposes, they are not the most powerful motives underlying the administration of the laws. The emotional and "expressive" goals of symbolism and vengeance are far more important, in my opinion. To someone who feels that marijuana use is evil, the laws are just no matter what their practical result. They are an expression of a moral stance, and are beyond criticism on that level. The question of "evil" is intrinsically unanswerable. Merely because crime is widespread is no indication that the laws attempting to prevent it (and failing, in a sense, to do so) are invalid and ought to be abolished. Over 10,000 murders occur in the United States every year; should laws against murder be nullified? There are about a half-million auto thefts yearly in this country, and over a million burglaries. Should laws outlawing these activities be done away with? The fact that the laws are relatively ineffective in deterring an activity is no argument for their abolition. If we feel the activity to be damaging to society—everyone has his own personal definition of what constitutes damage—we resent efforts to evaluate the law in terms of "effectiveness."
I feel that, essentially, pot is a bogus issue. The present hostility in some quarters toward its use and its users cannot be accounted for by a consideration of the pros and cons of its effects. The degree of emotion generated by the marijuana issue, on both sides, leads an observer to conclude that marijuana must be a symbol for other issues and problems. Psychoanalysts will often venture the opinion that marijuana use represents a symbolic rebellion against authority. But, curiously, the irrational motivation of their parents have never been entertained seriously by psychiatrists who devise such theories about the young—possibly because the psychiatrists who devise such theories are largely themselves parents with adolescent children. Is the present ferment of the young an attempt to kill the father? It might more plausibly be argued that the reactions of the adult generation to the activities of the young is an attempt to kill their sons. Marijuana merely serves to crystallize a number of other issues, none of which bear any relation to empirical and rational issues connected with public safety. A rejection of the young for being young, for being different from the older generation, for having long hair, for being radical, for being uninterested in a plastic civilization, for being too sexually permissive, essentially, for having a different style of life, for drifting beyond parental control, for having different tastes and values—these issues, rather than the concrete issues of public safety, generate the conflict.
The United States is a cosigner of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which constrains its signees, among other things, to prevent the "abuse" of cannabis. The antimarijuana lobby is firm in emphasizing the obligation of the United States to respect this international treaty, perhaps one of the few cases on record where political conservatives urge compliance to an international law in preference to the hypothetical federal and state legalization which the liberal pro-pot forces urge. The argument is that when the American government became a partner to the SCND, it became legally impossible to change the federal or state laws to make marijuana possession legal. Harry Anslinger writes: "... the United States became a party to the 1961 Single Convention on the control of narcotic drugs which obligates the signatories to prevent the misuse of marihuana. Accordingly, it will be utterly impossible for the proponents to legalize marihuana to do so."
Actually, the Single Convention is so worded that it would actually be possible to remove the legal sanctions against cannabis without violating the conditions of the treaty. Article 36 of the Convention states that the signing nations shall devise sanctions for the possession and sale of cannabis "subject to its constitutional limitations," and that "the offense to which it refers shall be defined, prosecuted, and punished in conformity with the domestic law of a Party." In other words, a signing nation may decide, after signing, that the stipulations of the treaty violate its internal laws, and may nullify those portions which do so. Certain states of India, for instance, have retained the legalization of many cannabis products, deeming a prohibition in violation of local custom and law. In addition, the Single Convention only refers to the pressed resin preparations of the cannabis plant—that is, hashish—and not the leaf substances. The substance customarily used in the United States is not covered by the restriction. Thus, in most cases, the Single Convention would simply be irrelevant. * It is no contradiction to say that marijuana users are more likely to drink, or to have drunk alcohol, than nonusers are, and drinkers typically cut down on their alcohol consumption when they begin to smoke marijuana regularly, in fact, both statements are true empirically. (back)
2. Donald T. Dickson, "Bureaucracy and Morality: An Organizational Perspective on a Moral Crusade," Social Problems 16 (Fall 1968): 143-156. (back)
3. Ibid., pp. 151-156. (back)
4. For the lament of one user, snared after the change in the marijuana law in South Dakota, see the letter to the editor, "Marijuana Law," in the July 1969 issue ofPlayboy. (back)
5. Roswell D. Johnson, "Medico-Social Aspects of Marijuana," The Rhode Island Medical Journal 51 (March 1968): 175. (back)
6. American Institute of Public Opinion (Gallup Poll), Special Report on the Attitudes of College Students, no. 48 (Princeton, N.J.: AIPO, June 1969), p. 30. (back)
7. John J. Bellizzi, "Stonybrook Could Have Been Avoided" (Albany: International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association, 1968), pp. 2, 7. (back)
8. Alfred R. Lindesmith, "The Marihuana Problem—Myth or Reality?" in The Addict and the Law (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1965), p. 237. (back)
9. J. Edgar Hoover, Crime in the United States (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965), p. 21. Murder is more likely to take place among intimates than among strangers. Where there is a complainant or an obvious victim—a body, in this case—enforcement is facilitated; where there is no complainant, it is rendered more difficult, because the police have far less access. (back)
10. Allan Morton, Joel Ohlgren, John Mueller, Roger W. Pearson, and Sheldon Weisel, "Marijuana Laws: An Empirical Study of Enforcement and Administration in Los Angeles County," UCLA Law Review 15 (September 1968): 1499-1585.
It should be kept in mind that the data on which the Los Angeles study are based are state and local arrests. Federal arrests include a much higher proportion of dealers while state and local arrests are mainly of users and petty sellers. Federal law enforcement officers utilize different techniques—undercover agents principally—while state and local arrests are primarily the product of accidental patrol procedures. (back)
11. Joe Reichmann, Testimony, in Hearings on Marijuana Laws Before the California Public Health and Safety Committee (Los Angeles, October 18, 1967, morning session), transcript, p. 6. (back)
12. Luke McKissick, Testimony, in ibid., p. 62. (back)
13. Howard Smith, "Scenes," The Village Voice, August 1, 1969, p. 20. (back)
14. Morton et al., op. cit., pp. 1533-1539, 1579, 1584. (back)
15. McKissick, op. cit., p. 63. (back)
16. Morton et al., op. cit., pp. 1579, 1581. (back)
17. Erich Goode, ed., Marijuana (New York: Atherton Press, 1969), p. 97. (back)
18. Morton et al., op. cit., p. 1543. (back)
19. Ibid. (back)
20. State of California, Department of Justice, Bureau of Criminal Statistics, Drug Arrests and Dispositions in California: 1967 (Sacramento: State of California, 1968), p.76. (back)
21. Ibid., p. 82. (back)
22. Ibid., p. 85. (back)
23. Ibid., p. 87. (back)
24. Ibid., p. 89. (back)
25. Marvin Cahn, "The User and the Law," in J. L. Simmons, ed., Marijuana: Myths and Realities (North Hollywood, Calif.: Brandon House, 1967), pp. 56 57.(back)
26. In "On Being Busted at Fifty," Leslie Fiedler describes electronic surveillance devices being used to detect the possession of hashish during the ceremony of his Passover Seder. See The New York Review, July 13, 1967, p. 13. (back)
27. Harold Garfinkle, "Conditions of Successful Degradation Ceremonies," The American Journal of Sociology 61 (March 1956): 420-424. (back)
28. Samuel G. Kling, Sexual Behavior and the Law (New York: Bernard Geis and Random House, 1965). (back)
29. In partial contradiction to the general point concerning differential enforcement, Playboy magazine prints large numbers of letters from men in prison who were convicted for these crimes; our surprise at their legal status is surpassed only by our discovery that anyone is ever sanctioned for them. (back)
30. Even the occasional exception illustrates the point. A case in a rural area of Vermont involving alleged adultery between a married black man and a divorced white woman demonstrates the need of a community to punish an activity which is legal (interracial intercourse) in the guise of an illegal activity (adultery). For a description of the events, see Life, April 4, 1969, pp. 62-74. (back)
31. The "yippie" ideologue, Jerry Rubin, recently arrested on a marijuana possession charge by officers who emphatically acknowledged their solely political concern in the arrest, reconstructs questions directed at him by the policemen: "Why do you hate America?" "Why did you go to Cuba when your government told you not to?" "Hey don't you have any patriotic magazines, any American magazines?" In concluding his article, Rubin writes, "My case will show cops whether or not it is easy to get away with political persecution disguised as drug busts," Cf. Jerry Rubin, "The Yippies Are Going to Chicago," The Realist, no. 82 (September 1968): pp. 1, 21-23. See also Don McNeill, "LBJ's Narco Plan: Lining Up the Big Guns: Crackdown on the Way?" Village Voice, March 14, 1968, pp. 1lff., and Irving Shushnick, "Never Trust a Man with a Beard," The East Village Other, January 12-19, 1968, p. 4. All of these journals favor legalizing marijuana. (back)
32. Gene R. Haslip, "Current Issues in the Prevention and Control of 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 19, 1967), pp. 1l-12.
The Bureau of Narcotics seems curiously cut off from communication with other government agencies. In addition to Haslip's charge—so wildly different from the view presented by the President's Commission survey of the literature—another Bureau lawyer, Donald Miller, in an article published in the fall of 1968, argued that the Marihuana Tax Act does not constitute se}f-incrimination, and that its operation was "critically different" from the gambling and firearms statutes, recently ruled upon by the Supreme Court; a few months later the Court, in an unanimous decision, ruled precisely that the Marihuana Tax Act constituted self-incrimination, as it had in the gambling and firearms statutes. See Miller, "Marihuana: The Law and Its Enforcement," Suffolk University Law Review 3 (Fall 1968): 80-100. (back)
33. Louria, op. cit., p. 120. (back)
34. The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice "Marihuana," in Task Force Report: Narcotics and Drug Abuse (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1967), pp. 12-14. (back)
35. "Referendum," Student Legislative Council, November 29 and 30, 1967 (unpublished), p. 1. (back)
36. Kenneth Eells, A Survey of Student Practices and Attitudes with Respect to Marijuana and LSD (Pasadena, Calif.: California Institute of Technology, 1967).(back)
37. "Election Results," Statesman, State University of New York, Stony Brook (October 1968). The Ns for "other" responses and "abstain" were eliminated from the computation. There is, of course, the methodological problem that students who are interested enough to respond to the survey are those who most favor legalization. That does not vitiate the notion that prolegalization is a common sentiment on college campuses however. (back)
38. Trod Runyon "Marijuana Blues," Letter to the Editor, Playboy, April 1968. Partly as a result of this letter's publication in Playboy, its author was freed after a liberalization of Alaska's marijuana laws. See Runyon's letter in the September 1968 issue of Playboy. (back)
39. Larry L. Belcher, "Marijuana Martyr," Letter to the Editor, Playboy, June 1968. (back)
40. Lindesmith, op. cit., p. 239. (back)
41. Herbert Blumer et al., The World of Youthful Drug Use (Berkeley: University of California, School of Criminology, January 1967), p. 71. (back)
42. Louria, op. cit., pp. 115-116. (back)
43. Eugene Schoenfeld, "Hip-pocrates," The East Village Other, August 9,1968, p. 6. (back)
44. Seymour L. Halleck, "Marijuana and LSD on the Campus" (Madison: Health Services, University of Wisconsin, 1968). (back)
45. Alfred Crancer, Jr., et al., "Comparison of the Effects of Marihuana and Alcohol on Simulated Driving Performance," Science 164 (May 16, 1969): 851-854.(back)
46. Jerome H. Skolnick, Justice without Trial (New York: John Wiley, 1966), pp. 4548, 105-109, 217-218. (back)
47. See the letter to the Editor of Playboy, published in the March 1970 issue, written by a former police officer, Richard R. Bergess, who retired from the San Francisco police force after twelve years, in part as a result of his feeling that the marijuana laws were unjust and unenforceable. Bergess writes: ".. . police efforts to enforce these laws only increases the disrespect and hatred of large numbers of young people. This loss of public respect is no small problem: It concretely hampers police efficiency in dealing with real crimes against people. The true crisis in law enforcement today is police alienation from the public they are sworn to serve"(Bergess' emphasis). (back)
48. Even some critics of marijuana use admit this. See Stanley F. Yolles, "Pot is Painted Too Black," The Washington Post, Sunday, September 21, 1969, p. C4. Yolles states: "I know of no clearer instance in which the punishment for an infraction of the law is more harmful than the crime." At the same time, Yolles feels that the legal restrictions against use and possession of marijuana should not be removed. (back)
49. See Miller, op. cit., and Malachi L. Harney, "Discussion on Marihuana: Moderator's Remarks," International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association, Eighth Annual Conference Report (Louisville, Ky., October 22-26, 1967), pp. 50-51. (back)
50. These points, and others as well, are brilliantly and passionately argued by J. W. Spellman, in "Marijuana and the Laws: A Brief Submitted to the Committee of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs—Government of Canada" (Buffalo: LEMAR, 69). (back)
51. From a letter, dated August 21, 1967, cited in Goode, op. cit., p. 137. (back)
52. Michael R. Aldrich, "United Nations Single Convention Can't Stop Legalized Marijuana," The Marijuana Review 1, no. 2 (January-March 1969): 1l. For the full record of the SCND, see United Nations Conference for the Adoption of a Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, Official Records, vols. 1 & 2 (E/Conf. 34/24 and E. Conf. 34/24/ Add 1). These volumes were published by the United Nations in 1964. (back)
Chapter 12 - Epilogue: Models of Marijuana Use
Every scientific discipline employs conceptual and theoretical constructs that help its practitioners to organize and make sense out of the often confusing facts before them. An event does not simply occur; it is noticed and classified. These constructs generally cohere into models: detailed generalizations, each element of which contributes to the central theme, or thesis. Models structure our attitudes and responses toward a given phenomenon; they tell us what to see and what to ignore. Models represent archetypical patterns built into our minds as a way of understanding events around us. Some models are more useful than others, organizing facts more faithfully. By equipping ourselves with one model, we may distort the essential reality of a phenomenon—although, at the same time, clarify a small segment of the same phenomenon—while using a different one will immediately introduce clarity where a swirling fog-bank of obfuscation and confusion previously prevailed.
Of all arenas of human behavior, illicit nonmedical drug use provides one of the best examples of the tyranny of models of man. In few spheres are facts perceived more selectively—by experts and the public alike—and with less correspondence to the real world. At least two factors account for the mythical character of contemporary drug models. The subterranean nature of illegal drug use renders direct confrontation with a wide range of users, as well as a broad spectrum of the many aspects and manifestations of use, unlikely even for the dedicated researcher. What takes place in the laboratory may not take place in the street; what takes place in the slum may not happen on the college campus. We are all at the mercy of culturally (and historically) generated models to explain the few, highly selective facts which filter through to us. In addition, the emotional involvement of every member of society in the drug issue reduces his objectivity and detachment.
What, then, is to be done? It depends on whether we are deductive or inductive in our method. A common cry today is that we need less prejudice and more fact. This statement ignores man's powerful ability to perceive facts selectively. Presenting the same set of facts to two different observers, each with his own set of ideological and theoretical perspectives or models, will produce reports whose conclusions differ fundamentally on every conceivable important question. Facts are not perceived in the abstract; they are linked to a general scheme. They are manifestations of larger processes. By themselves, facts are chaotic assortments of trivia. At the same time, an iron-clad adherence to a meaningless model, an ignorance of the facts in preference to an outworn but elegant scheme, is equally as sterile and misleading. It is at the general level that we must begin.
What are these obsolete drug models? They range from the ludicrous to the nearly plausible. The least useful and most erroneous of these models—and the one most densely woven into historical and cultural folklore—is what might be called the "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" model of marijuana use. The essential elements of this notion are that: (1) there is a germ of evil in even the best of men; (2) some potion, or external chemical agent, may release this evil; and (3) once the agent is ingested, the evil will express itself in aggressive and destructive acts under any and all circumstances. However, this belief that a normal person, upon ingestion of marijuana, will instantly become a dangerous and violent maniac is not entertained very seriously in many quarters today. A perusal of the antimarijuana propaganda of the 1930s would yield full-blown expressions of this tribal mythology; even today, the police commonly propagate the notion that there is a direct causal association between the use of marijuana and the commission of violent crimes. Not only is this belief held by a minority among all groups in American society, it is slowly a dying belief, even among the police. The "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" model of marijuana use is interesting mainly for antiquarian purposes.
A newer and somewhat more realistic model of marijuana use, taken seriously by medical and lay figures alike, in part reflects the shift from a punitive to a rehabilitative approach to the drug question (a shift not yet institutionalized among law enforcement agencies). This model could be called the "pathology" or "medical" model. According to this model, marijuana use, particularly at its more extreme levels of frequent use and high dosages, has features resembling a medical disease; therefore, physicians have special competence in dealing with it. In both its cause and consequence, marijuana use is viewed as a kind of pathology. Marijuana appeals predominantly to the neurotic and the troubled young. Although some essentially normal youths will wander in and out of a marijuana-smoking crowd, the frequent and fairly long-term, or chronic user, is far more likely to manifest psychiatric disturbances.
In addition, the marijuana experience is itself seen as pathological. Being high, under the influence of the drug, is thought to be by definition abnormal. This view holds that marijuana intoxication is such that reality is distorted: the subject feels euphoric (in clinical terms, "where there is no objective basis for euphoria"); he often emits unmotivated laughter; his sense of time is elongated (that is, he judges time "incorrectly," or his sense of time is "distorted"); he thinks he hears music more acutely; he thinks food tastes better; he has illusions of a superior aesthetic sense; and so on. In other words, according to the pathology model, what is felt and perceived under the influence of a drug which differs from the normal or nondrug state is in and of itself abnormal and pathological. In addition, it is an essential tenet of the pathology model that marijuana tends to induce temporary insanity, "psychotic episodes," in some users.
Moral positions are often justified on rational grounds. To admit that one or another point of view is merely a matter of taste is rarely sufficient, particularly to someone who struggles for moral and ideological dominance. A common strategy to discredit other points of view is to adopt a health-pathology model of justification. One's own ideology represents mental or physical health, while that of one's opponents is pathological. Some of the best examples of this variety of rationalization may be found in the area of sexual behavior. To the sexually permissive, indulgence is normal, and abstinence is sick. To the supporters of abstinence, it is precisely the reverse:What is the right thing for the young unmarried woman? The physician is not a religious teacher and he does not speak on grounds of morality. He speaks from the standpoint of health, which includes emotional health. From this standpoint I submit that the desirable ideal is premarital chastity.
The physician stands in excellent relation to society to make such judgments. He has sufficient scientific credentials in the public eye as well as great prestige, to command credibility. Moreover, his views are not markedly out of line with those of the majority, so that he may be useful as a means to justify and rationalize many traditional values, employing a rhetorical or scientific rationality.
The sociology of medicine is one of the more fascinating the field has to offer. The illness and health of the human body are social definitions, not simply natural categories. Even death has a social dimension; it is not only a physiological fact. What is conceived of as a matter for appropriate medical attention is decided by doctors, not by the human body. What the body is thought to do, and what is thought to be the cause of what it does, varies from society to society, from epoch to epoch. What attracts a physician's attention at one time may be of no concern at another—either because of a change in moral climate or because of new discoveries in medical science. For example, masturbation was once thought to be "medically" harmful. Nineteenth-century physicians, from Krafft-Ebing to the local general practitioner, attempted to dissuade adolescents from practicing masturbation for medical reasons; a moral evaluation was framed in health terms. What was disapproved of inevitably had to be thought of as physically harmful as well. The sinner had to bear the bodily signs—stigmata—of his transgressions. William Acton, the famous Victorian physician, describes the ravages of masturbation:The frame is stunted and weak, the muscles undeveloped, the eye is sunken and heavy, the complexion is sallow, pasty, or covered with spots of acne, the hands are damp and cold, and the skin moist. The boy shuns the society of others, creeps about alone, joins with repugnance in the amusements of his schoolfellows. He cannot look any one in the face, and becomes careless in dress and uncleanly in person. His intellect has become sluggish and enfeebled, and if his evil habits are persisted in, he may end in becoming a drivelling idiot.... Such boys are to be seen in all stages of degeneration, but what we have described is but the result towards which they all are tending.
The parallels between society's condemnation of masturbation in the Victorian period, and its condemnation of marijuana use today, extend beyond the claim that both activities ruin the health of the participant. More specifically, insanity was often viewed as a likely outcome of both. Both were seen as an indulgence, a form of moral flabbiness, selfish and unrestrained pleasure-seeking. And both have earned the label "abuse;" in fact, even today "to abuse oneself" specifically means to masturbate, a relic of an earlier moral stance. In both cases, society's moral attitude toward the activity has elicited from the medical profession a condemnatory justification cast in the form of medical objectivity. Social control and the preservation of the status quo become functions of physicians. When society no longer holds a morally castigating point of view toward marijuana use, the physician's services will be withdrawn and called for in a new area.
Popular sociology, as practiced by physicians as well as journalists, policemen as well as educators, has traditionally conceived of human activity in zero-sum terms. That is, it was thought that participation in one kind of human endeavor naturally and inevitably canceled out another; the more time, emotion, and effort invested in one activity, the less left over for another. Recent research in many areas of human life has more often given support to precisely the opposite perspective: generally, the hypothesis of "the more, the more" holds up. As John Gagnon put it, the imagery describing human activities has shifted from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes. Wisely withholding one's time and energy from one activity often results not in more time and energy for other activities, but no activity at all. And participation in certain kinds of activities often means involvement in many others as well. "Spending" one's time and energy in one sphere often implies spending more, not less, in other spheres as well.
In fact, extending our Victorian sexual analogy a step further, it was not uncommon in the nineteenth century to employ economic imagery to describe sexual activity; having an orgasm, for instance, was labeled "spending." And it is in the realm of economics that the Victorian zero-sum model seems to operate best. One has a fixed amount of money, and "spending" it leads to its depletion. Analogously, engaging in sexual activity depleted one's energy; by conserving it, one had more left over for nonsexual spheres. Sex, in short, was seen as diminishing one's everyday, socially approved life.
Few areas of social life reflect this thinking more than the question of marijuana use. The traditional view holds that smoking marijuana automatically means the deterioration of one's "normal" socially approved life, that deterioration is a cause of marijuana use in the first place, and that further use contributes to deterioration. Antidrug campaigns often base their appeals on this assumption. During 1969 and 1970, the National Institute of Mental Health has engaged in a propaganda effort to dissuade young people from using drugs. In one of its commercials, a short film, sequences of potsmoking youths (who, the commentator informs us, have copped out) are alternated and contrasted with shots of several clean-cut, energetic college-age young adults who are engaged in community and social work efforts. In fact, the basic assumption underlying nearly all antidrug propaganda campaigns is that marijuana use and all of the things normally valued by our society are mutually exclusive and incompatible. One chooses drugs or political activism.
Closely related to the zero sum model is the "escape from reality" conception of marijuana use. The central axiom of this thesis is that the user is a troubled individual, who finds life threatening and frightening, and seeks to alleviate his difficulties by drifting off into a never-never land of euphoria. The state of intoxication associated with the marijuana high is viewed as intrinsically outside the orbit of the normal and the real and, therefore, by definition, the user seeks an unreal and abnormal state. It necessarily follows that anyone who smokes marijuana seeks to escape from reality, since reality is defined as what is socially acceptable. Thus, marijuana smokers are seen as truants from life, drop-outs, dwellers in a fantasy world, spinners of illusions—all living in hallucinations.
Another model currently applied to marijuana use is the "stoned" view of marijuana use. Many arguments which attempt to discredit its use and individuals who use it are based on the assumption that the typical smoker is high a substantial portion of his waking hours, if not the entire day. There is the feeling that if someone finds marijuana pleasurable, he will want to become high all the time. If anyone can justify the use of the drug occasionally, then why not frequently? The use of marijuana conjures in the mind of the uninformed an image of the frequent or "chronic" user. Partly, this attitude is based on the fear of the unknown, fear that anything which is threatening will become dominant, overwhelming and destroying that which one values. Part of the image of the stoned model stems from the world of narcotics addiction where, it is true, a huge proportion of users eventually become chronic users.
An essential element in all of the traditional and conventional models of marijuana use is the view that it is radically discontinuous with everyday life. Drug use is seen as existing in a moral and empirical realm wherein all of the taken-for-granted rules of life are suspended. What governs the law-abiding citizen is not thought to apply to the drug user, since he is, the thinking goes, removed from the pale of the law.
I propose to substitute for these models that depend on the disjunction of the marijuana user from everyday life two more useful models which, instead, rely on a linear continuum between the user and the rest of society. In each of these classic models—the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the pathology, the zero-sum, the escape from reality, and the stoned models of marijuana use—there is an either/ or assumption. One is a user, or he is not; marijuana leads to heroin addiction, or it does not; marijuana causes psychotic episodes, or it does not; marijuana use is a neurotic acting out, or it is not. I suggest that the assumptions on which these models rest are empirically and conceptually inadequate; they are simply erroneous.
If we look at the facts, we see not a discontinuity separating the marijuana smoker from the rest of society, but a spectrum ranging from the nonuser, through the potential convert, the experimenter, the occasional user, on up to the daily committed smoker who consumes ten or twelve joints a day, and who is high most of the time. In a sense, it is improper to speak of the marijuana user, since there are so many styles of use and degrees of involvement. Generalizations which apply to the daily user may be completely erroneous when applied to the experimenter, and so on. We can only say that one or another statement is more or less likely to hold up for one or another group.
The idea that marijuana use could not only not detract from, but actually be associated with, an improvement in the volume and quality of those very things that are generally considered desirable, is heresy to the committed antimarijuana lobby, as well as to an entire tradition in marijuana commentary. Yet such a conclusion is difficult to avoid. The marijuana user appears to be more active socially than the nonuser. He has more friends and socializes more. He is engaged in a larger number and a greater variety of activities than the nonuser—aesthetic appreciation and creation, political activism, and social welfare, for instance. (Of course, some other human endeavors, such as traditional and formal religious participation, are less often the object of marijuana users' interests.)
The zero-sum notion assumes that the two realms, the straight and the stoned, are antagonistic and incompatible, enjoyed by a wholly different and distinct personnel. In reality, most potsmokers do not rob their straight life to pay their stoned existence. More commonly, the two enrich each other. Thus, any model based on the assumption that by using marijuana those activities which society values will typically or necessarily deteriorate in the lives of users has to be faulty. In the average user, no such process takes place. (It will, of course, be a relatively simple matter to uncover exceptions.) The average marijuana smoker utilizes his drug of choice as an adjunct and an enhancer of many of the activities that the ordinary law-abiding citizen participates in.
The dire predictions of what happens when someone takes to the weed do not seem to happen. It is said that although marijuana is not technically addicting, it does generate a kind of psychological addiction (thus, the stoned model), and that once legal restrictions are relaxed, huge numbers of persons will be stupefied most of their waking hours. When we look at the facts, this argument evaporates. Most marijuana users smoke the weed occasionally. The truly committed "head," the smoker who is high the whole day, day in and day out, is a relative rarity, perhaps comprising 1 or 2 percent of everyone who has ever smoked marijuana. And yet it is from this rarefied upper reaches of the world of potsmoking that society's model of marijuana use is borrowed.
We will, of course, be able to locate specific individuals who are, in fact, high a great proportion of their waking hours. But the difference between marijuana and any of the physiologically addicting drugs—including alcohol—in this respect is so great as to be a difference of kind, and not simply a matter of degree. It is only because the medical profession views marijuana use by definition pathological and abnormal ("abuse" is defined as taking a drug outside a medical context) that any use of marijuana has to be viewed, medically, as a kind of habituation, or psychological addiction. Something anomalous, puzzling, and disturbing must be labeled pathological. But in less moralistic terms—and it is only on moral grounds that the medical label makes any sense at all—it is necessary to face the fact that the study of a cross-section of all individuals who have tried marijuana, or even who smoke it regularly, however regularly might be defined, will yield very few who are high all of the time, or even more than a few hours each evening. The facts do not support the stoned model. When the user smokes marijuana he does, indeed, become high, or stoned. And if one observed his behavior during this period, he is often measurably less active than normally. But to say that it is the ultimate goal of a large proportion of users to seek this state most of the time is to distort the facts. It is only because researchers cannot understand why anyone would want to become high in the first place that they find it necessary to attach the label "psychological addiction" or "habituation" to his behavior and motives. If they found use of the substance acceptable, they would not emit this labeling behavior.
It is clear that another model is necessary. And this model, I propose, is the recreational model. It fits the facts more faithfully than any of the previously mentioned models. And it contains none of the moral judgments that the others are clearly guilty of. The recreational model takes issue with these perspectives. Essential to the recreational conception of marijuana use are the following elements: (1) it is used freely, noncompulsively; (2) it is smoked episodically—once or several times a week or so on the average; (3) it is experienced as pleasurable by the participants; (4) it is used in conjunction with (and not a replacement for) other enjoyable activities; (5) its impact on one's life is relatively superficial; (6) its use results in relatively little harm to the individual; and (7) its use is highly social. By adopting the recreational perspective toward marijuana use, I do not wish to imply that everyone who has ever smoked marijuana may be described in terms of this model, nor even that a majority of all users are typified by all of these principles. It is, however, to say that this model presents a relatively accurate summarization of the experiences of the characteristic user, that these traits are typically found in marijuana use. In any case, the issue is an empirical one; if the model is ineffective, then it must be discarded. In my own research, however, the recreational model yielded far more insights and more accurately described the reality I investigated than did any of the traditional models. I found that most users smoke marijuana recreationally, and I believe that any study investigating a fairly representative group of smokers will support the same generalization. It is possible, of course, to uncover some individuals who are motivated by compulsive forces and experience overwhelmingly unpleasant reactions. A study based on users who visit psychiatrists will, naturally be far more likely to be composed of users whose experiences differ from the normal everyday user's, and therefore cannot be taken as typical. In the open air of the user's habitat, the recreational model will be found to be more fruitful.
A second model which, in my opinion, yields more mileage than the traditional and conventional images of use is the subcultural or life-style conception of the user. Marijuana use is the product of the same essentially normal values and beliefs of large groups of people that guide other kinds of everyday activities and choices. Voting for a political candidate, making a purchase, reading a magazine or newspaper, listening to music, playing and watching sports—all of these are influenced by the social groups to which we belong. No one questions the fact that Jews are more likely to vote Democratic than Protestants, that a heavier proportion of working-class men read the New York Daily News than read The New York Times while among professional workers, it is the reverse, that residents of large cities spend proportionally more of their time and money on "serious" art and music than do residents of more rural areas. These sorts of subcultural appeals are well-known and entreat our common sense.
But if our attention turns to less common and more condemned activities, we find it necessary to ignore these broad and essentially normal appeals and to search out pathological motives. If it is the young to whom marijuana appeals, we must assume that they are rebelling against authority, or trying to kill their fathers, or escaping from boredom or reality, or whatever. If it is the urban dweller who is more likely to use marijuana, we point to an anomic, disintegrating urban society. If it is the affluent, then we complain about how the affluent are overindulging their young, and intone darkly about the hazards of affluence.
Different social groups in society have somewhat different marijuana potentials. Greater or lesser proportions of their ranks are likely to try and use the weed because of characteristics relating to that group. Patterns of use are not accidental, and they are not pathological. They emerge out of the social fabric of the values and the circumstances of a segment of society. They do not typically occur as a result of some dark, unconscious motive. The subcultural attitudes and values of some groups support such an action as marijuana use, while those of other groups oppose it. In addition, opportunities for use are differentially dispersed throughout society. Simply by being around the stuff ecologically, groups differ in their likelihood of taking it.
Thus, when we say that men are more likely to smoke marijuana than women, it is not permissible to say that men are more likely to be psychiatrically disturbed than women. Rather, it makes more sense to say that there is something about the role of men in this society that is related to marijuana use—a greater emphasis on experimentation, adventure, masculine daring, a greater influence of youth peer groups, and so on. And when we say that marijuana use is more likely to take place on the left of the American political spectrum than on the right, we cannot say that the left is in need of medical and psychiatric attention. Although it would serve a useful ideological function to any existing regime to pin a pathology label on its radical critics, it would not serve a scientific function. Such a position represents an attempt to discredit an opposing point of view by crystallizing one's own ideology into a pseudoscientific reality. Marijuana experimentation is woven into the life style of the political left (except, as we pointed out earlier, at the very extreme left), and not of the political right; is it then possible to say that the left is wrong, or bad, and the right good, or right? When two-thirds of the students of Columbia Law school say that they have tried marijuana, and nearly 100 percent say that marijuana use and possession should be legalized, do we then attempt to uncover pathologies in the members of Columbia Law School? Do we really wish to pathologize the activities and beliefs which separate one generation from another? Do we wish to stigmatize our future?
N O T E S1. Max Levin, "The Meaning of Sex and Marriage," Bride and Home, Autumn 1968, p. 103. (back)
2. Recall that the subtitle of Richard von Krafft-Ebing's study, Psychopathia Sexualis first published in 1886, was "A Medico-Forensic Study," which means that he was presenting cases in a court in an effort to demonstrate that they should be treated medically, not punitively; he had, therefore, to present moral outrage at the practices he described to gain the confidence of the court. This merely emphasizes my point, however. (back)
3. Quoted in Steven Marcus, The Other Victorians (New York: Basic Books, 1966), p. 19
Appendix - Research Experience
As Howard Becker pointed out almost two decades ago, drawing a random sample of marijuana users is an impossibility. No list of all users, or even a large number of users, exists. There are several organizations concerned with marijuana. LEMAR, for instance, as its name implies, has as its goal the legalization of marijuana. The "Jade Companions" offer legal assistance to those arrested for the possession of psychedelic drugs. It would seem that these organizations provide a starting point for the collection of an informal sample of marijuana smokers. One problem with approaching an organization of this kind is that each one, for good reason, fears publicity, police surveillance, and harassment. LEMAR, for in stance, would certainly attempt to keep a listing of their member ship from falling into the hands of anyone outside its organization. Since the existence of the organization is a matter of public record, they are, even without notoriety, open to the possibility of harassment. If it were known that a sociologist had interviewed their members, the further likelihood of their attracting incriminating attention would be multiplied several times. In fact, at the first organizational meeting of the Stony Brook campus chapter of LEMAR, potential members were dissuaded from joining if they were presently users of the drug; "If you smoke, don't join," they were urged. This advice protects both the individual in that his member ship, if known, would automatically cast suspicion on the legality of much of his behavior, as well as the organization, since a large number of members who are vulnerable to arrest threatens its stability and existence. In any case, none of the individuals associated in a leadership capacity with the drug-related organizations whom I contacted was willing to cooperate with the study. Not wanting to threaten their already dubious relationship to the law and law enforcement agencies, I respected their unwillingness. It was apparent that a less formal means of sample recruitment had to be found.===================
One of the main channels of access that I used to collect respondents was through acquaintance with individuals who occupied positions in organizations which, although in no way formally drug-related, included marijuana users. This segment of the sample was generally gathered by going with the "gate keeper" individual to the place of employment and getting the names of users willing to be interviewed. Many interviews were conducted on the job, either during the lunch hour or a lull in work; others were carried out after working hours, usually at the residence of the interviewee. These organizations included two large New York universities, a large publishing house, and a market research firm.
The second source of my sample was through friends and their acquaintances. A kind of "snowball" method of gathering names was adopted, whereby each interviewee would supply me with one or two names of people who also used marijuana. Often the original person would contact his acquaintance and ask if he would consent to an interview; in this case, he received the refusal or the acceptance, not I. Frequently, I initiated the contact. Considering the illegal nature of the activities I questioned them about, the number of refusals was negligible. In fact, when I contacted the individual directly, only four refused. As to the rate of refusal through the indirect route, I cannot estimate.
The main concern was that I might be a policeman. It is puzzling to me as to why this was so, but their initial fears were fairly easily quelled; after all, were I actually a policeman, I would reassure them that I was not in the same soothing tones. Perhaps, like everyone else, marijuana smokers often react to stereotypes, and I certainly do not look like a policeman. The second worry was that their names would be kept and used, that it would be known publicly that they were lawbreakers. I was careful to assure them of anonymity, and to explain my procedure as to the use of names which invariably eased their doubts. It seems strange, but these two worries, that I was a policeman and that their names would be taken down, were articulated in a minority of cases; in about two-thirds of the cases, this was not necessary. It seemed that my original contact had vouched for my veracity, and that was apparently sufficient.
It should be emphasized that this is not a representative sample, and is in no way a cross-section of all marijuana users. At this point, the collection of such a sample is impossible. Therefore, to use the composition of this sample as an accurate description of marijuana smokers in general would be completely fallacious and misleading. To reason, for instance, that since 47 percent of my respondents were female, the same percentage of all users are female, would be to distort the meaning of this study. I am not presenting a profile of marijuana smokers, but an analysis of the social structure of marijuana use. This unstructured manner of collecting interviewees for a study of a deviant and illegal activity has both advantages and drawbacks. The potential interviewee in a complete stranger situation will normally fear detection by law-enforcement agencies, and will be unwilling to be interviewed in the first place, or, if willing, would be evasive and even dishonest. Cooperation, then, would, have been problematic had more formal techniques, such as neighborhood sampling, or drawing from a complete listing of individuals working in an organization known to include high proportions of individuals who smoke marijuana. What was necessary for me to be able to approach my interviewees was that someone in the network of social relations be able to vouch for my veracity and basic harmlessness. Only in this way was the cooperation of my interviewees assured. Moreover, this method avoids the oft-trod route of studying individuals who have come to some sort of official notice—incarcerated criminals, for instance, or those who have made some sort of court appearance. As we now know, deviants who have attracted some form of official notice present a systematically biased view of any group under study, unless, of course, that group under study is individuals who have attracted public notice.
The severe and restricting drawback to this casual and informal technique of gathering respondents is, of course, that the interviewees were certainly not representative of marijuana smokers in general; moreover, just how unrepresentative they were, is unknown. The specific individuals known to me reflect my personal associations; another researcher with a different set of acquaintances would have drawn a somewhat different set of respondents. And the organizations to which I had informal access do not necessarily house a cross-section of the marijuana-using population. Moreover, the persons whom the original contact designates as a potential interviewee will be distinctive in crucial ways. For one thing, he must be willing. For another, those who are so designated are likely to be obvious and conspicuous enough users (to their friends, at least) for the designator to think of him off-hand specifically as a marijuana smoker. (In spite of the fact that I requested users of every level of use.) In all, the sources of bias were strong and have many ramifications. For this reason, we must consider this study exploratory, and its findings tentative. We hope that the guesses and hypotheses suggested by our data will be tested subsequently by more careful instruments.
Since our sample is unrepresentative, it is important to describe its composition. The respondents were slightly more than half (53 percent) male, relatively young (the median age was twenty-two, and three-quarters of the respondents were in their 20s), and overwhelmingly white (8 percent were black, and five respondents, or 2.5 percent, were Puerto Rican.) Slightly over a quarter (27 percent) had parents with a Protestant background, 44 percent were Jewish, and about a seventh had Catholic parents (14 percent) or had parents with different religions (15 percent). Not quite four-fifths (78 percent) were single, and a tenth were divorced. A high proportion were students; 4 percent were high school or grade school students, a quarter (27 percent) were college students, and about a tenth (11 percent) were graduate students. The occupations of the remaining respondents were professional, technical, or kindred, 26 percent; managerial, official or proprietor, 4 percent; sales or clerical, 16 percent; manual laborer, 5 percent; unemployed, 5 percent; housewife, 3 respondents. A third of the fathers of the respondents (34 percent) were professional, between a third and a quarter (29 percent) were managerial, officials or proprietors, and a quarter (24 percent) were manual laborers; the remainder (14 percent) was made up of salesmen or clerical workers
Of the respondents who were not at the time of the interview in school (or, if the interview was conducted in the summer, who did not plan to attend school in the fall), not quite half had dropped out either of college (4/5 of this group) or of high school. In fact, about 25 percent of the total sample was a college drop-out. (It is, of course, impossible to estimate the likelihood of these respondents returning to college. It should be kept in mind that only about half of all those in general who enter college actually receive a bachelor's degree.) About 10 percent of those not presently attending school had a graduate degree, and about twice this number either attended some graduate school without receiving any degree, or had received a B.A. without attending graduate school. All of the respondents were residing in New York or its suburbs at the time of the interview (although a few were in transit); our findings, then, will apply most directly to the New York subset of marijuana smokers, and only by inference to users elsewhere in the country. The data are probably without application outside the United States.
An estimate as to the degree to which my sample varies from the large and unknown universe of all users would be sheer speculation, of course. I suspect, however, that the following differences would be observed between a random sample and mine:
- A random sample of all marijuana users would be overwhelmingly male—probably about three-quarters.
- It would be more heavily black.
- It might be slightly younger, possibly at a median age of about nineteen.
- It would contain a lower proportion of individuals with any contact with college.
- It might include a lower proportion with a middle-class background.
- Fewer would be Jewish, more would be Catholic and Protestant, and very few would have a mixed religious background.
The interviews took place between February and September 1967. Rapport with the interviewees was, on the whole, excellent. Not one interview was terminated by the interviewee. (I terminated two; one received too many telephone calls for me to finish the interview, and later attempts at scheduling proved fruitless, and the second was a psychotic whose answers bore no relation to the questions.) Many interviewees reported that the interview was interesting; my rapid pace kept their interest from flagging. More important, of course, is that I believe that I received honest answers, although more than a casual check is impossible. I was careful to point out inconsistencies when they did occur, and I rarely allowed vague answers to pass unclarified. Most of the individuals interviewed were supplying information about felonious acts. Although relatively few reported serious crimes beyond drug use, the few that did appeared to be candid about it, although wary. When I asked one chronic user of amphetamine how he was able to pay for such heavy drug use he thought for a moment, turned to the tape recorder, which was running, and said, "Could you turn that thing off? He then proceeded to divulge the nature and frequency of the crimes which he did commit. When I asked a former heroin addict the same question, she responded shyly, "I was a prostitute." Undoubtedly, there were some evasive replies, some probably lied. But I believe that, given the nature of the enterprise which they were describing, this was minimal and exceptional, and certainly not characteristic.
The author conducted all of the interviews (except two). About half were conducted at the interviewee's place of domicile (or, rarely, at that of a friend), a quarter were conducted at his place of employment, and perhaps another quarter was done at the author's residence. A scattered few were done in public places—a coffee house, a restaurant, a bar. The first fifty were tape-recorded, and the remaining one hundred-fifty were transcribed almost verbatim.
There is, of course, the matter of variables which influence interview rapport. It is possible that the rapport is greatest when the characteristics of the interviewer are the same as those of the interviewee, although there are important exceptions to this, especially for certain kinds of information. During the period of the interviewing, I was twenty-eight years old, while the median age of the respondents was about twenty-two. I was in fact told frankly by a half-dozen respondents that had I been noticeably older, they would not have been willing to be interviewed. Another important factor was attire. To have done the interviews in a suit, white shirt and a tie would have threatened rapport; at the very least, it would have placed a chasm of distance between myself and the respondents. My dress was always informal, usually no different from that of the interviewees. In general, dress may be considered a part of the "hip-straight" continuum. (The word "hip" is both an adjective and a noun. It is permissible to speak of "having hip." "Hip" is also used as a verb: "I hipped him to the scene.") To the users who did think of themselves as "hip," hair style played an important role in their identification, as well as in the identification of others. During the period of the interviewing, I had very long and shaggy hair. Although I did not grow my hair long for the study, it had a peculiar relevancy for many respondents which I had not anticipated. Since the "hip" style is itself so variable, or, at least, there are degrees of "hip," many participants in this subculture might have thought that my innocuous style was exceedingly "square." As I was walking into an East Village artist's loft, two members of a motorcycle cult walked out, claiming that they felt "bad vibrations." It should be noted that among many "hippies," the mere fact of wanting to conduct an interview is "square." It is possible that this does not indicate the success of my unintended disguise, but I was approached several times on the street in the "East Village": "You want to cop some grass, man?" (Sometimes hashish as well.) It is possible, however, that anyone who appeared to have any money would have been approached. Other indicators of my ability to blend into the marijuana scenery were several tribal greetings which I received from people unknown to me on the East Village streets, as I went to and from interviews: the extension of an open palm (which calls for slap into the palm), spoken tokens of phatic communion ("Like, what's happening, man?"), and similar examples of communication Once, while sitting in a coffee shop, three young girls in their middle 'teens, in "hippie" garb sat across the counter. (I quote from my field notes):They smile and wave. To me? I look around. It looks like me. One says, "How's your trip?" Stupidly, I ask: "What trip?" "You know," one says, giggling, with her hand over her mouth, "LSD." Slowly realizing what's going on, I ask "How did you know?" "Oh, we can tell—it's the glint in your eyes." Oh, yeah. Anyway, here's the scene: they took me for a hippie. Why? What are the status cues?
Another indicator by which respondents, actual or potential, may have sensed my lack of connection with law-enforcement agencies and were, therefore, willing to confide in me, was in my understanding and occasional use of slang terms. Although some are in current use everywhere, such as "pot" and "grass," others are somewhat more esoteric: "spaced," "zonked," "blind," "wiped," to mention only a few for the notion of being "high." It is interesting that many of the respondents used these terms freely—none ever gratuitously explained them to me—assuming that I understood them.
It should be noted that any of these indicators of one's "purity"— i.e., lack of affiliation with the police—could be faked. Undercover agents (such as the ones planted on Stony Brook's campus) learn the argot, the manner of dress, the style of life, tonsorial cut (or lack thereof), and so on. In fact, I interviewed an undercover agent, a policeman who possessed all of the necessary appurtenances. The user's naive faith in style leads him to believe that he is able to sense a threat to him, when in fact, I doubt very seriously if this is the case. When asked how he knows something, a "hip" marijuana-using resident of the East Village will often reply, "Vibrations, man." It must be remembered that at least half of my respondents thought of themselves as in no way involved in the "hip" way of life. I interviewed Wall Street lawyers and corporation executives as well as "hippies," dealers, and unemployed wanderers who remained high most of their waking hours. For many, marijuana did not change their basic style of life. Had the lawyers and executives who smoked wandered into the habitat of the "hippies," they would have been thought of as "freaks." (For some strange reason, the term "freak" has a dual usage. It refers to a "square" who would be egregiously out of place in a "hip" environment, and a "hippie" who would be equally unfit for a place in "square" society. Both would be freaks' in the opposite setting. When asked why he wore a silver lame jacket on the stage when it was so hot, a rock performer replied "Because I'm so freaky." It was, of course, a boast. Usually, however, the term "freak" has negative connotations.)
Therefore, these comments on "hip" only apply to a segment, certainly less than half of the sample in full degree, since "hip" is a matter of degree. But as a qualifier to this qualifier, it should be noted that the more one was involved in the drug scene, and with drug use, the more that one was likely to display a "hip" style of life.
Perhaps in one respect, my rapport with the respondents may have reduced the amount of information which I received, at least before I began to probe and ask for elaboration. It was often assumed that I knew what the respondent was describing. I received the response, in the middle of a description: "Oh, I don't have to go on—you know what I mean!" A pose of complete innocence was not possible in many cases, although it is possible that this approach would have yielded more information.
In addition to the responses to the formal interview, I observed a great deal of drug-related behavior casually; I was a "participant observer." In addition to the interview situation, I interacted informally with many of my interviewees. Knowing that I was doing the study, as well as for more personal reasons, they often invited me to observe and take part in various drug-related social events, such as parties, the "turning on" of a curious potential marijuana smoker, the baking and eating of various foods in which marijuana was cooked, feasts and dinners eaten while high, LSD trips, "be-ins," "smoke ins," concerts (listened to while high), drug sales and transactions, and so on; I was called twice to calm frightened LSD "trippers," so that I spent two evenings doing just that (which taught me both that LSD is not the harmless drug it is sometimes portrayed by drug users to be, and the difference between temporary panic, and hospitalization is often an understanding guide). I would estimate that I observed about two or three thousand man-hours of marijuana use in the eight months of the field research. That is, the number of people times the number of hours I spent observing; I spent about five hundred of my own hours in the company of someone who was high.
One problem which any sociologist of deviant behavior faces is that he has access to information concerning illegal activities of his respondents which, if publicity and conviction ensued, could result in long prison sentences for those so generously supplying the information. In order to secure this information in the first place, the researcher must assure his subjects of complete confidentiality, that their names will be revealed to no one. A betrayal of trust would be suicidal. This is both a matter of professional ethics, as well as a question of sheer practicality: if it became known that sociologists were unable to keep their word concerning confidentiality, that, by revealing compromising information about oneself, one thereby was placed in serious trouble, the student of criminal behavior would not long be in business. Adhering to the rule of confidentiality is absolute, a rule that must not be broken.
No serious researcher of crime questions the maxim. But alas, it is not so clear-cut. The sociologist is often called upon not only to find out about illegal activities, but, as I said, to observe them as well, and occasionally to participate in them. The journalist-writer of a recent book, The Seekers, Jess Stearn, refused even to be present when drugs were present in the same room: "It was against the law to knowingly stay where marijuana was smoked." As the book testifies, Stearn learned nothing about drug use. There is no handy rule of thumb here. My colleague, Ned Polsky, admits that he has been unwilling to witness a number of illegal acts which were morally repugnant to him (beatings, for instance), and, in so doing, slightly compromised his role as a sociologist.
In my case, then, I witnessed hundreds of cases of drug use, possession, and/or sale. As I said about one hundred of the interviews were conducted in the place of residence of the respondent, or a friend of his. In about half of these cases, or about fifty interviews, the respondent used marijuana during the interview. The likelihood of that many respondents smoking during the interview was far greater than would have been expected randomly, judging from the fact that the overwhelming bulk of the sample claimed to smoke less than daily, and even the daily smokers did not typically remain high during the whole day. My chances of hitting the respondent while he was smoking, then, was far smaller than the 50 percent of the at-home interviews I did, or even the 25 percent of the total. This was a most curious tendency. Possibly talking about the drug stimulated the respondents to smoke. When I asked one respondent to describe the marijuana high, he said, "I'll have to get high first," and lit up a pipeful of hashish.
There is, of course, the issue of criminality of the author's behavior. It was witnessing crimes "taking place," i.e., I knew that the respondent possessed and used marijuana. In addition, I was present during several purchases, which is also a criminal offense. By law, one must report felonies of which one has knowledge. And in this sense, in not reporting criminal acts, my behavior was criminal. Obviously, I share this trait with every other criminologist or researcher of deviant behavior who does his research "in the field," i.e., in the open air outside the jail cell or correction house. (And any criminologist who does all of his work within the confines of an institution of incarceration itself cannot be taken very seriously as a criminologist.)
I felt it to be of great importance to protect my respondents' identity in any way that I could. I followed a number of procedures to assure them of a relative degree of protection. When a subject was contacted, I wrote his name on a small slip of paper. After the interview was complete, I destroyed the slip, and I no longer had either the name or any way of contacting the individual. At no time did I have a list of any more than twenty individuals (who were potential interviewees); at no time did I have a list of any of the respondents who had already been interviewed. Moreover, since I have gradually allowed myself to forget the names of all the respondents whom I interviewed, I am not at this time able to get in touch with any but a tiny handful of the subjects of my study. Truman Capote claims to have cultivated the ability of almost total recall after an interview, an ability which he employed in the writing of In Cold Blood. With regard to names at any rate, I cultivated precisely the opposite skill: that of forgetfulness.
This precaution was a way of making sure that the fact that I had written down names and telephone numbers of respondents and potential interviewees did not place any of them in jeopardy. They were assured anonymity, and I felt that it was necessary to do whatever I could to protect that. If, for some reason or in some way, the research became known to law-enforcement officers who saw me as a route to the names of users and, possibly, suppliers, I would be able to at any given time to be of as little use to them as possible, even in the case that they confiscated the names. After the interviews were completed, of course, I became of no use to them whatsoever.
A: the amphetamines; any amphetamine; methedrinezonked, zonked out: see "wasted"; generally, also, to be tired
A-head: frequent or regular user of the amphetamines or methedrine
Acapulco gold: a superior and powerful form of marijuana, said to grow in the Acapulco region of Mexico; often, any strong marijuana
acid freak: chronic and frequent user of LSD
acid head: more or less regular user of LSD
acid rock: music influenced by the psychedelic experience or thinking process
amys: vials of amyl nitrite, a vasodilator
bag: (1) a quantity of drugs: for marijuana users, a "nickel bag"; for heroin addicts, a quantity of heroin; for amphetamine users, a quantity of methedrine; (2) a mood, a direction, an emphasis, style or taste
bang: (1) a sudden, sensual flush of pleasure as an intravenously injected drug---heroin or methedrine, usually---begins to take effect; (2) to have sexual intercourse
behind: (1) under the influence of a drug, as in: "I hallucinated behind acid"; (2) to be addicted to a drug: "That cat's strung out behind H."
bennies: benzedrine, an amphetamine blast: to smoke marijuana (an obsolete term)
blind: to be under the influence of a drug, often marijuana, to such an extent that one is unable to function normally
boo: marijuana; although generally obsolete, sometimes used humorously
brick: a block of marijuana, compressed and packaged; usually a kilogram in weight, although sometimes slightly less
bring down: to lose one's high; anything which causes one to lose one's high; that which causes one to lose any positive euphoric feeling; anything which is depressing
bum trip, bummer: a negative or unpleasant experience with a psychedelic drug; generally, any unpleasant experience
burn: to sell someone else a quantity of drugs, and not deliver them, or give adulterated drugs
bust: to arrest
buzz: a slight tingle of a drug feeling, used especially with marijuana; "I just got a buzz from that joint."
can: a quantity of marijuana, slightly more than an ounce; more often used in some geographical locales than others---Chicago, for instance (see "lid")
cap: a capsule of a drug, usually LSD
carrying: to be in possession of a drug
chippy: to use an addicting drug, usually heroin, sporadically, so that one does not become addicted
clean: (1) to prepare marijuana for smoking by removing stems twigs, and seeds; (2) not to be in legal possession of any drug, so that when the police search one's dwelling or person, no drugs will be found; (3) among addicts: abstention from an addicting drug
cocktail: a "roach" or a small amount of marijuana or hashish twisted into a regular tobacco cigarette
come down: see "bring down"
connection: drug supplier or source
cop: to obtain or buy a quantity of drugs---see "score"; generally, to obtain anything
crash: to "come down" from the long-term effects of the amphetamines
crutch: a device, often a folded matchbook, used for holding a burned-down marijuana cigarette butt (see "roach") to prevent one's fingers from being burned; a "roach holder"
crystal, crystals: methedrine
deal: to sell drugs
dealer: a seller of drugs, usually on a large scale commercial basis
dex, dexies: dexedrine, an amphetamine
dime, dime bag: Ten dollars worth of a drug
do: to take a drug; see "make"
dope: humorous term used by drug users for drugs, usually marijuana: "I smoke dope"; often heroin
downs, downies: barbiturates or tranquillizers
down: anything depressing
dynamite: an exceptionally powerful and pure quantity of a drug: "That's dynamite grass"; often denotes anything exceptionally good
fall out: to go to sleep, often after taking a drug
Fed: a federal narcotics agent
freak: a chronic and heavy user of a drug, never marijuana; the term has a distinctly negative connotation
freak out, flip out: to have a psychotic experience with a psychedelic drug
fuzz: the police
gage: obsolete (sometimes humorously used) term for marijuana
G. B.: goofballs; barbiturates
gold: see "Acapulco gold."
guide: someone who accompanies a person taking an LSD "trip"
head: (1) user of a drug; contains no negative connotation; (2) mood, thoughts, opinion, taste: "Where's your head at?"
heat: the police
high: to be under the influence of a drug
joint: a marijuana cigarette
key, ki: a kilogram, usually of marijuana (or sometimes hashish)
kif: North African cannabis
lay on: to give someone something, often a quantity of drugs:-"I laid some grass on the cat"; could also mean to tell someone something
lid: a quantity of marijuana, generally slightly more than an ounce; usually regionally distinctive for California and the West Coast
make: (1) to take a certain drug, to have experience with a specific drug, as in: "Did you ever make acid?" (2) to have sexual intercourse
man: (1) the police; (2) occasionally, a dealer
manicure: to take the twigs, stems, and seeds out of a bulk quantity of marijuana to prepare it for smoking
Mary Jane: an obsolete term for marijuana; sometimes used in jest
meth: methedrine, a powerful stimulant closely related to the amphetamines
micro, mike: microgram, a measure for LSD; generally, anything having to do with LSD
nark, narco: narcotics agent nickel,
nickel bag: five dollars worth of a drug, often marijuana
nod, nod out, go on the nod: to become extremely lethargic and sleepy under the influence of a narcotic drug, usually heroin
O.D.: to take an overdose of a drug (never marijuana), usually heroin
O.Z.: an ounce, usually marijuana
Panama Red: powerful form of marijuana, usually coming from Panama
panic: the general unavailability of a drug in a given area
pod: obsolete term for marijuana
poke: (1) a puff of marijuana; (2) the jab of a needle into one's skin
poppers: vials of amyl nitrite
Prince Albert: a quantity of marijuana, or a "can," so-called because it was once put into an empty Prince Albert pipe tobacco can
psychedelic: having the quality of "expanding" the mind
pusher: obsolete term for a seller of drugs
reefer: a quantity of marijuana; as applied to a single marijuana cigarette, or "joint," it is generally obsolete
roach: the butt of a marijuana cigarette
rush: the sensuous feeling of an injected drug
scoff: (1) to swallow a drug orally; (2) to eat
score:(1) to obtain a quantity of a drug; see "cop"; (2) the quantity of drugs that one obtains; (3) to have sexual intercourse
shit: any drug, but usually heroin; occasionally, marijuana
skin pop: to inject a drug subcutaneously, rather than intravenously, usually to avoid addiction
snappers: vials of amyl nitrite
snort: to inhale a drug sharply through one's nostril; used with heroin and methedrine among the less frequent users (the heavier users more often inject the drug), and almost always with
snow: often heroin, sometimes cocaine
spaced, spaced out: to be high
speed: usually methedrine, but can be any of the amphetamines
spike: a hypodermic needle
spoon: (1) a level teaspoon of a drug, usually methedrine; (2) the device used to hold heroin or methedrine while it is being heated and liquefied in preparation for intravenous hypodermic injection
stash: a quantity of any drug that is hidden; generally, an amount of a drug
stoned: to be very high
stone: superlative, completely, absolutely, the ultimate
stick: obsolete term for "joint"
tab: a tablet of a drug, usually LSD
taste: a small amount of a drug, often given in exchange for a favor, or as a sample
take off: (1) see "get off"; (2) to steal a quantity of drugs
tea: somewhat lighthearted term for marijuana
toke: a puff of marijuana (sometimes opium)
toke pipe: a small pipe used especially for smoking marijuana or hashish
trey: a three dollar quantity of a drug
trip: a psychedelic drug experience; generally any involved and dramatic experience
turn on: (1) to take a drug; (2) to take a drug for the first time, almost always marijuana; (3) to become high for the first time, usually on marijuana; (4) generally, to introduce or sensitize someone to something
ups, uppies: stimulants, almost always the amphetamines
wasted: to be under the influence of a drug to such an extent that one is able to do little else but rest or sleep
weight: a large quantity of a drug, usually marijuana, often for selling purposes: "I'm looking to cop weight."
wiped out: see "wasted"
wig: an insane person
wig, wig out: to have a psychotic episode under the influence of a psychedelic drug; see "freak out," "flip out"
works: the equipment used to inject drugs intravenously, the needle, especially