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Marijuana Prohibition in the United States: History and Analysis of a Failed Policy

NCJ Number
Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems Volume: 21 Issue: 4 Dated: (1988) Pages: 417-475
J B Slaughter
Date Published
59 pages
Widely accepted rhetoric about the necessity of marijuana prohibition masks the fact that marijuana smoking's few deleterious effects on society can be better controlled if the drug is legalized.
The present impasse began in the 1960's when marijuana smoking expanded rapidly and forced re-examination of legal and medical assumptions about the drug. Federal and State governments reduced penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana as the number of annual arrests for marijuana topped 100,000 in the late 1960's. Marijuana use developed into a widespread social practice in the 1970's before regular consumption of the drug declined to less than 10 percent of the population in the mid-1980's. Two National Academy of Science studies challenged exaggerated allegations of marijuana's harm and criticized marijuana prohibition for the social costs of unregulated black markets, aggrandizement of police powers, and criminalization of millions of citizens. Resurgent public concern over children, cocaine, and marijuana in the late 1970's and 1980's, however, blocked further relaxation of marijuana laws. The Netherlands's successful policy of allowing the retail sale of marijuana suggest that its legalization would produce minimal harms compared to the toll of increasingly draconian prohibition measures. 289 footnotes.


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