e laws is exceptionally complex, and some will be changed shortly. By far
the best review of existing laws and their social consequences has been made by Kaplan in his recent
book, Marijuana, the New Prohibition (1970). Smith's (1970) book also contains excellent discussions
of the social issues revolving around marijuana use.
EXTENT OF USE
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On Being Stoned - Chapter 1
In spite of the severe penalties attached to possession and sale of marijuana, use today is very
widespread. Given the sorts of pleasurable effects reported later in this book, it seems likely that use will
continue to increase.
No definite survey of incidence of use can be made because there is always a (realistic) tendency of
wary users to deny their use. Nevertheless, a large number of surveys of drug use on college campuses
have been made (Kaplan, 1970; Pearlman, 1968). It is now a rare college campus that does not have a
significant number of marijuana users and on many campuses users themselves estimate over 50 percent
of the students use marijuana occasionally, primarily at social events. An unpublished study that I
carried out in collaboration with one of my graduate students, Carl Klein, found that from 1967 to 1968
the percentage of students who used marijuana at a conservative West Coast university doubled, and
various formal and informal estimates of that population since have confirmed that a majority of the
students have tried marijuana. (Further details of this study are presented in Chapter 28.) This seems
typical. Drug-education programs sponsored by schools and government agencies are viewed with scorn
and amusement by users since their own and friends' experiences with marijuana convince them that the
instructors are ignorant or lying. This is an unfortunate effect, as the attitude may be generalized to
warnings about drugs that really are dangerous, such as hard narcotics and amphetamines.
Marijuana use is by no means confined to college campuses. In a survey of young adults (eighteen
and over) in San Francisco, Manheimer, Mellinger, and Balter (1969) reported that 13 percent had used
marijuana at least once. Conservative estimates in the press usually figure that several million
Americans have tried marijuana, although it is not clear how many use it with any regularity.
Difficult political, moral, and religious problems arise when an act generally condemned and illegal
spreads at such a rapid rate. This book is not the place to go into them, but the interested reader will find
some good discussions in Aaronson and Osmond (1970), Krippner (1968), and Kaplan (1970).
Leaving aside considerations of social and political problems, what sort of reliable, scientific
knowledge do we have about the effects of marijuana? What do users experience that makes the risk of
The following chapter discusses the nature of marijuana intoxication and explains why previous
scientific work has gained v
tion about marijuana. On the one hand, we have
individual anecdotes of marijuana users. These are valuable but cannot be generalized very reliably. We
don't know how much of what is reported is a product of marijuana intoxication and how much of the
individual writer. On the other hand, we have clinical and laboratory experiments. These are as limited
in applicability to the state of marijuana intoxication in general as are the anecdotal accounts, for the
reasons detailed in the next section; the laboratory or clinic is an unusual constellation of conditions,
which accentuates certain potential effects and inhibits others in a way that is atypical of the general use
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On Being Stoned - Chapter 2
The ideal study of the nature of marijuana intoxication should proceed in a number of stages. First, we
must determine the range of effects; i.e., what are all the various effects supposedly associated with
Second, since it is impractical to study everything at once, we must determine which of these effects
in the total range are important. We may determine importance on theoretical grounds, which will vary
with our own background and beliefs; or we may, somewhat more objectively, decide to study the
frequent effects and let the rarer ones wait.
Third, we may set up controlled experiments to investigate each important effect in isolation. What
causes it? How does it relate to dosage? Do different personality types experience it with important
variations? Is it adaptive or nonadaptive for certain individuals?
Fourth, we may study the relationships between important effects. Must effect X always appear before
effect Y? Does B inhibit A? Does investigator M always observe effects N. O. P and investigator Q
always observe effects R. S. and T? Why?
Finally, all this knowledge may be put together for a general theoretical understanding of what
marijuana intoxication is. As with any scientific theory, this understanding will then be judged on its
informational usefulness (does it "make sense" and order the observations conveniently?) and its ability
to predict further observations (i.e., if it orders all presently known facts elegantly and can't handle the
next new fact, it's not very good).
In steps three and four, it is important to remember the restricting effects of the laboratory; i.e., the
gain in precision of observation may be offset by the narrowing of the range of potential effects
observed and the distortions caused by experimenter bias. However, if we know the range and
importance in advance, from steps one and two, we can compensate for the restrictions of the laboratory
to a great extent; we will be careful not to overgeneralize and misapply laboratory findings.
THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE ON MARIJUANA
There is a vast medical and scientific literature on marijuana, dating back over half a century. The
reader interested in perusing this should consult
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