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21 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs. 417 (1987-1988)
Marijuana Prohibition in the United States: History and Analysis of a Failed Policy

handle is hein.journals/collsp21 and id is 427 raw text is: Marijuana Prohibition in the
United States: History and
Analysis of a Failed Policy
JAMES B. SLAUGHTER*
I. INTRODUCTION
Over half a century of marijuana' prohibition in the United
States has failed to control the use of the drug, and the govern-
ment's accelerating pursuit of prohibition now exacts a price far
exceeding the harm of this mild intoxicant. The present impasse
began in the 1960s, when marijuana smoking expanded rapidly and
forced reexaminations of legal and medical assumptions about the
drug. Federal and state governments reduced penalties for posses-
sion of small amounts of cannabis as the number of annual arrests
for marijuana topped 100,000 in the late 1960s. Cannabis use de-
veloped into a widespread social practice in the 1970s before regu-
lar consumption of the drug declined to less than ten percent of
the population in the mid-1980s. Two National Academy of Sci-
ences studies challenged exaggerated allegations of marijuana's
harm and criticized cannabis prohibition for the social costs of un-
regulated black markets, aggrandizement of police powers, and
criminalization of millions of citizens.
Resurgent public concern over children, cocaine, and cannabis
in the late 1970s and 1980s nevertheless blocked further relaxation
of marijuana laws. Federal and state governments vigorously at-
tacked production and distribution of cannabis, but rapid changes
in the marijuana industry frustrated efforts to reduce its availabil-
ity. The United States redoubled its commitment to prohibition in
the mid-1980s, and many companies began analyzing the urine of
* Articles Editor, Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs., 1986-87.
1. Cannabis is the preferred term for the marijuana plant and its psychoactive prod-
ucts, marijuana and hashish, and thus cannabis is often used interchangeably with mari-
juana and will be in this Article. The genus cannabis consists of three species, cannabis
sativa, cannabis indica and cannabis ruderalis. L. Grinspoon, Marihuana Reconsidered 375
(2d ed. 1977). Marijuana is sometimes cooked in food and eaten, but the usual method of
ingestion is smoking, and that term will encompass both methods of consumption in this
article. The controversy over the drug extends to its spelling, a matter that has confused
even the Supreme Court. The consensus now seems to rest on marijuana with a j. Mauro,
Has High Court's Spelling Gone to Pot?, Nat'l L. J., Apr. 14, 1986, at 3.

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