In the name of freedom for adults, marijuana
should be made legal.
Recent studies have
established that marijuana is more dangerous than anyone suspected. The case
against legalizing it is far stronger today than it has ever been
Good evening, and welcome to The
Advocates. I'm Michael Dukakis. Tonight our debate is on legalizing
marijuana. Despite the fact that it is illegal in every state in this
country, the National Council on Drug Abuse estimates that some 15 million
Americans are regular users of marijuana, and some 43 million of our fellow
citizens have tried it at least once. Thousands of people make millions or
billions of dollars obtaining and selling the drug at considerable legal
risk, and some 400,000 Americans are arrested every year for some offense
connected with marijuana.
In the face of the clear
desire of so many people to use marijuana, our question tonight is whether
they should not simply be allowed to use it, without the fear or threat of
arrest or fine or imprisonment. The argument hinges on whether the drug is
safe and whether our society has any interest and any right in banning its
use. Should we legalize marijuana? Advocate Avi Nelson says,
Yes, marijuana should be legalized;
and to help me make this case tonight I have two outstanding
witnesses—first, Mr. Peter Meyers, who is the Chief Counsel for NORML, the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and also Dr. Lester
Grinspoon, who is Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical
Now, let's establish at the outset—we are
talking about legalizing marijuana for adults, those over 18 or 21. It would
be in the category somewhat similar to alcohol. As a matter of fact,
marijuana is less harmful than either alcohol or tobacco and considerably
less harmful than amphetamines or barbiturates or even something like
aspirin. Second, we have followed over the last few years a prescription of
trying to stamp out marijuana. We arrest over 450,000 people a year at a
cost of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. What have we gotten to
show for it? We've alienated our young people. We have stimulated a 48
billion dollar a year industry for the underworld, and we certainly haven't
stopped marijuana. Third, and most important, the question of individual
rights: it is simply true that people ought to be able to do in the privacy
of their own homes whatever they want. They ought to be able to smoke what
they want and drink what they want. They should be able to do these things
so long as they do not violate the rights of others. Unfortunately, in this
society we've drifted away from the recognition of individual liberty. I
think we ought to come back to it and recognize that at least in this area
alone, we ought to legalize marijuana and let adults make their own
Advocate William Rusher says,
At a time when drugs like saccharin
are disappearing from the market because they're supposed to give rise to
various remote and speculative dangers, marijuana has enjoyed an almost
unresisted vogue sweeping over our society in less than 20 years. It has
become the symbol not only of the counterculture, but of the whole younger
generation. Their elders have generally granted that its effects are
certainly no worse than alcohol, and the more broad-minded among them have
endorsed it as a legitimate newcomer on the social scene. On the other side,
opponents of marijuana have all too often sought to stamp it out by harsh
laws, sending youngsters off to prison for long terms. If I accomplish
nothing else tonight, I hope to make you understand that we do not endorse
such disproportionate penalties. If there is a case against legal, against
legalizing marijuana, and there is, it depends upon appealing to your
reason. And for that purpose, I must ask you first to open your
Within the past three years, there have been
published new studies of the biological effects of marijuana; and they show
beyond the possibility of contradiction that this drug is more harmful than
almost anybody had realized. Our two witnesses are not Alabama sheriffs.
They are earnest and responsible men, Dr. Robert DuPont, Founding Director
of the National institute and Drug Abuse, and former U.S. Senator, James L.
Buckley. I ask you to hear them out before you vote to legalize and thereby
to encourage a drug that is harming our country and especially our young
more than we knew.
Thank you, gentlemen.
We'll be back to your cases in a moment, but first a word about tonight's
debate. The current legal status of marijuana varies widely among the states
in this country. Though legal in none, possession of a small amount can
result in a felony conviction and from five to ten years in prison in states
like Nevada, in Arizona, and Florida. Other states make possession of a
small amount a misdemeanor, meaning a fine and probation in most cases. And
ten states have gone further, decriminalizing minor offenses. In those
states minor violations are treated much like traffic citations and result
in a fine but not in a criminal proceeding or, of course, in a criminal
record. And now to the arguments. Mr. Nelson, would you call your first
I call Mr. Peter
Welcome to The Advocates, Mr.
Meyers. Nice to have you with us.
Mr. Meyers is Chief Counsel for NORML
and editor of the Drug Law Journal.
let's begin with the question: What is legalization?
Well, we generally mean by that that an adult could
possess and use marijuana without being treated as a criminal and in
addition, the adult would have a place to legally buy and sell marijuana.
You wouldn't have to get it through the illicit markets.
Why should we legalize?
Well, I think there's three main reasons why I favor it: medical,
social, and philosophical.
Let's develop them in order; first, the medical reason.
Well, the point is that marijuana is not the killer
weed which the federal government told us it was for so many years, and that
each and every justification the government has used to outlaw marijuana has
been proven to be a myth with no basis in fact. Marijuana is not a narcotic
or a physically addicting drug. It doesn't lead to crime. It doesn't lead to
insanity. It doesn't lead to all of the horrible things which the government
told us it would cause when the laws were first passed. Now, there's no such
a thing as a harmless drug; but marijuana, government studies year after
year have told us is a drug which is less harmful, much less harmful than
alcohol and tobacco, two drugs which are legal in this society.
What about the social reason?
Well, that's based on, look at the waste from the
current criminal penalties with over 450,000 Americans arrested every year,
90 percent for simple possession of small amounts; over 600 million dollars
we spend in enforcing the marijuana law, money and effort and resources
which we could be spending chasing serious criminals. In addition, the
marijuana laws on the books encourage a variety of problems. They encourage
illegal search and seizure techniques, the use of entrapment, the use of
informants. We know that the marijuana laws are more harshly applied against
blacks and other minorities; and finally, the social context of education.
How can we expect children to believe us if we are totally hypocritical
So, it leads to a great
deal of cynicism in society as well,
lack of respect for the law and education. How are the kids going to believe
us about PCP and dangerous drugs if we have no credibility cause we've lied
to them about marijuana.
What about on the
Well, that's based, I
think, on the fundamental American value that an individual should have the
greatest amount of freedom; and we should have the most limited role for
government, and make the government have some good reason before it comes in
and makes what you do a crime. I believe that an adult should have the right
to do something, even if it's dangerous. That's what freedom means in
America. And I think that's a tradition which is shared by both liberals and
conservatives. And you have groups such as the American Bar Association, the
American Medical Association, individuals such as James J. Kilpatrick,
William F. Buckley, the National Review, all coming out and in favor, at
least, of marijuana decriminalization.
the way, for the record, that's a different Buckley from the one that's on
the program tonight. Are there other medical benefits that derive from
marijuana and would derive if it were legalized?
Well, that's another point that there are many people today who
suffer from glaucoma, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, and other
illnesses, who could benefit from marijuana's medical potential. But these
people, with a handful of exceptions, are being denied access to a legal
supply and have to purchase it in the illegal market with all of the
uncertainties that applies because the government won't legalize it. So the
medical use is another strong advantage to doing so.
If we were to legalize, will this increase the use
among children? We're talking about legalization for adults, but what about
those who are under 18? There's a problem there, too, as it is now. Will
that problem be aggravated by legalization?
I do not believe so. If you look at the current criminal laws on
the books, obviously, they have been a gigantic failure. They have not
deterred children from using marijuana or really deterred anyone, I believe.
And, I think if you look at marijuana as the outlaw drug, as it's classified
today, I don't think you can underestimate the attraction of young children
using marijuana because it's illegal, because they've been told it's wrong.
And I think if you legalize marijuana, it's not impossible that it would
lose some of this mystique; and the use of marijuana might even go
All right, gentlemen. Let me
interrupt at this point. Mr. Meyers, Mr. Nelson will have an opportunity to
ask you another question or two; but let's go to some cross-examination now
with Mr. Rusher.
Mr. Meyers, I assume that
in the process of legalizing marijuana you would permit advertising of
No, my own preference—
—would be to
ban promotion or advertising of it.
Well, we don't want the media to
encourage people to use marijuana or any drugs.
Well that—. Because
that's the problem—that media presents a glamorous image of drugs, and we
need an accurate and honest statement of drugs' dangers.
Oh yes? And you would have such a statement in the
case—, if you had a statement of marijuana's actual dangers, would you
No, because we do not
—the media to encourage people to use marijuana or other drugs. I
would prohibit it.
This suggests to me
there is something about marijuana then that is harmful.
Any drug—, I do not want the media urging us to use
aspirin, barbiturates, or any of these.
Yes, but we're talking about marijuana tonight; and you are the head of a
national organization to legalize marijuana. So let's stick with that and
not with aspirin.
But I would be against
the prohibition of any of that.
wondering—. What is—. I appreciate that. But what is the harm with marijuana
in your opinion?
Okay. I think the
greatest dangers from marijuana today are people who would use it while
driving a motor vehicle, for one, and certainly legalization of marijuana
would not do anything, in my judgment, to take off the books the laws
prohibiting driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. I'm also concerned
about the use of marijuana by pregnant women, especially in the early months
of their pregnancy.
Would you ban
Would you make that illegal?
would not make that illegal, but I would inform these women and through
education that this has especial risks which we advise you not to take.
That's the whole point here. We want to advise people not to use marijuana
or other drugs; but if they don't listen to us, we don't want to treat them
Right. Let's see how much
legalizing might increase the use, though, with marijuana. Let's take the
analogy of alcohol. In 1935, two years after repeal of prohibition, liquor
sales in this country, beer, wine, and spirits, was $698 million. Would you
care to guess what they were in 1939—just four years later?
No. I have no idea.
Well, I'll tell you. They were one billion, two hundred and forty
nine million dollars. Does that suggest to you that the repeal of the laws
against it had something to do with that increase?
It, it could have. But you do not know in terms of when—, when
alcohol was illegal, we really have no good idea in terms of the volume of
alcohol consumed, whether there were contaminants in the alcohol.
Precisely. I'm talking 1935 was when it was legal,
you understand. I'm asking you about a time when it was legal, but just
legalized and how much the sale increased within four years after it had
Well, as I say, I don't
know the statistics; but I would say that what's obvious to me is that with
marijuana, we're repeating all of the same mistakes we made during alcohol
We certainly would be if we
went ahead and repealed the prohibition against marijuana. I'd agree to
that. Let me ask you this. Has speeding, has speeding or murder or anything
else been eliminated because it has been illegal?
Are we breeding disrespect
for law by keeping these laws on the books even though they're violated
I do not believe so.
Then, what is—. Why are we breeding disrespect by
keeping on the books a law in one case that is disobeyed and not in other
Well, I think there's two good
reasons for that. First, the difference between the danger to others and
harm of others through murder, driving on the road and hitting somebody, and
marijuana, which does not have any—
but I said spitting on the sidewalk, I think, too, or speeding—as far as
Well, now that's a classic
example. I think we need that for the protection of society. We do not need
marijuana laws, in my judgment in criminal laws for the protection of
Well, certainly, then, the fact
in any case that a law is violated, even though it's on the books, is not an
argument that it shouldn't be on the books, is it?
Except if you have the third most popular drug in America so widely
used, and we try to tell people honestly about drugs, I think that the
hypocrisy between legalized alcohol and tobacco on the one hand, and illegal
marijuana, I think it undercuts any honest educational effort—
It's not necessarily, with due respect, a case of
hypocrisy. Alcohol can be a very serious problem but a different problem. It
has to be coped with in a different way.
Well, different in the sense that everybody agrees today that the regular
use of alcohol is damaging to the body and a whole variety—
And also different in the length of time it has been
endemic in the society. You mentioned the great problem of not being able to
get marijuana for your what—glaucoma, if you had it. Would you say--. My
understanding is quite different. The reason that marijuana can't be gotten
for glaucoma is not just because it's illegal as a drug. Opium, or a
derivative of opium can be gotten in the United States. And it is certainly
illegal as a drug for private use. What marijuana's trouble is as a drug for
glaucoma is that it hasn't been certified as effective for the
The problem is that the federal
government has not allowed this research to go forward through their own
limitations and then they come back and say therefore we don't have the
evidence to do it.
Mr. Rusher, I'm sorry.
I'm going to have to interrupt at this point. We've run out of time. We're
going to have to go back to Mr. Nelson for another question or
Mr. Meyers, I want to pursue a moment
the difference in the kinds of laws. It is true that there are murders and
there are robberies; but in the one case where there are violations of the
rights of others, it's an obligation for us to continue to pursue to try to
stamp out these violations. And even if the law is not obeyed a hundred
percent of the time, we continue to try; whereas, when we're talking about
categories where there are no violations of the rights of others, aren't
there considerable differences in our approach to the laws, or shouldn't
Right. And I think that's the
essential response to the question—that the use of marijuana, according to
all of the evidence we have today, does not present any real danger to the
public health, safety, and welfare; and there's no good justification for
the laws to remain on the books.
question, to pursue also the metaphor with prohibition. We're talking about
a fair amount of money, aren't we, with regard to the marijuana industry in
the course of a year?
That's right. You're
clearly talking about hundreds of billions of dollars. The estimate is that
if everybody who is illegally trafficking in marijuana worked for one
company, it'd be the third largest business in the United States.
This is the underworld.
That might raise
an unemployment problem; but on that note, Mr. Meyers, thank you very much
for being with us on The Advocates.
We're going to go now to Mr. Rusher; and he, too, will present his first
I call as my first witness, Dr.
Welcome to The Advocates,
Dr. DuPont. Nice to have you with us.
Dr. DuPont was the founding
director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and is Chairman of the Drug
Dependent Section of the World Psychiatric Association, a psychiatrist in
private practice, I believe, at the moment.
Dr. DuPont, how big is this
problem of marijuana? How many people smoke it, and how much do they
Forty-three million Americans have
smoked it at least once; 16 million are current users. But that doesn't
begin to tell the story. Marijuana use is concentrated among America's
youth. Four million of the current users are 12 to 17 years of age. Among
American high school seniors, one out of nine, or 11 percent smokes
marijuana every day. That figure has doubled in the last three years. Many
Americans who are over the age of 35 are unaware of this because the use
rates among the po—, the adult population is so much lower. Only 1 percent
of Americans over 35 are current users of marijuana.
Well why—. How serious is this? Why should we care
if this is true?
Marijuana smoke is a very
complex substance made up of over three hundred separate chemicals, 57 of
which are unique to the cannabis plant. These substances are distributed
throughout the entire body after the marijuana is smoked. And one of them,
the major active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is a fat soluble
substance like DDT, that rests in the body's fatty tissues. Now that doesn't
mean just around your waist, but it includes your brain and your
reproductive organs, as well. From a single dose of marijuana, the THC lasts
for more than 30 days.
Is it reversible if
It appears that the effects
appear to be reversible for most tissues, although there are some evidence
in nervous tissue which it does not regenerate that some of the effects may
Would you give us some
examples of specific effects of marijuana on various organs?
Yes. There are a number of them. We’re particularly
concerned about the effects on the lungs. Marijuana regularly produces
emphysema and bronchitis effects. In fact, in one study it was found that a
single marijuana joint produces more airway obstruction than 16 tobacco
cigarettes. Marijuana, in laboratory studies, the smoke condensate has been
shown to be carcinogenic. When painted on the skins of mice, it produces
tumors. And in laboratory studies, human lung tissue that is exposed to
marijuana smoke shows changes that suggest the likelihood of the development
of cancers. You might know that in terms of after the introduction of
cigarettes in 1914 as a mass produced substance, it took 50 years to
identify the relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. I think
we've got plenty of laboratory evidence to suggest that this is a very
serious concern right now with marijuana. In addition, we have the effect on
the reproductive organs, which is also serious. Marijuana reduces the
testosterone level in males. It reduces sperm count. It increases the
Doctor, excuse me. What
Testosterone is the male
sex hormone, and it's the substance that produces the beard and the
masculine musculature, for example, and also increased assertiveness or
aggressiveness associated with the male, the expression of females, also,
but in lower levels. It also—. It's interesting in females, along this line,
that the testosterone levels seem to be increased, rather than decreased in
females. And in a recent study of women who were using only what—, three
times a week, that there was a three-fold increase in abnormal menstrual
cycles. So, our particular concern in these hormone studies is the effect on
young people who are just developing their maturity. And there, there is
some evidence, and certainly many observations, including my own, suggest
that boys are less masculine, if you will, and girls are less feminine as a
result of the hormonal influences of marijuana smoking, particularly heavy
Even so, Doctor, what about the
argument that everybody's entitled to go to Hell in his own way? Is there
some social harm involved, some social harm as distinguished from individual
Yes, in several areas; one is
driving, which was alluded to earlier. There's no e—, no question that
marijuana smoking is very harmful to driving. A study in Massachusetts found
that 17 percent of the drivers responsible for fatal accidents were stoned
on marijuana at the time. A similar study in California suggested 15 percent
of the drivers were responsible. In addition, we have the health costs that
are borne by all of us. No one can be sick in the United States and not
affect the cost of everybody. And finally, we have the effects on young
people of a drug that causes them to care less about everything, from their
studies to the extracurricular activities to other kinds of things. And I
think that we can't afford to let that go on.
Gentlemen, let me interrupt at this point. Mr. Rusher, we're going
to be back to you for some additional questions. But, Doctor, we're going to
go now to Mr. Nelson who will be cross-examining you.
Thank you. I'm going to leave some of the
contradiction of the medical aspects of the testimony to Dr. Grinspoon. But
I'd like to quote something to you and ask you whether you agree with it. "I
would say today at our current use levels at our state of knowledge that
there is no question that alcohol and tobacco are causing as far more health
problems than marijuana does. There is no question on that point." Do you
know the famous personality who uttered those words not too long
In 1975. That's right. They are your words. Do you
still believe them?
Well, I have serious
question about those words. That was true of my opinion in 1975; and the use
levels, as I mentioned, since 1975 among youth in the United States has
doubled. I did not expect that in 1975, and the evidence of serious health
harm has also increased substantially. I think now that marijuana possesses
many of the negative effects of smoking in terms of the effect on the lungs
and the potential cancer effects. And it produces many of the negative
effects of alcohol in terms of intoxication. It shares the negative effects
of both drugs, I would say.
In 1977, you
were in favor of decriminalizing even what you called "personal cultivation
in the home," cultivation of the marijuana plant.
Well, I think the decriminalization has been a very, has had a very
sad effect on the nation; and I no longer support that position, see,
because I think it has been perceived by the public as being in favor of
marijuana use. And you'll know in that statement that I made in 1974 at the
NORML Convention and later, I always opposed legalization. At no point have
I ever favored legalization.
I see. Let's
talk for a moment about alcohol and tobacco. You would grant that they are
Absolutely, very serious
Are you in favor of them
making them illegal?
Because they are so widespread in our society that I think making
them completely illegal would be undesirable.
I see. In other words, if the users of marijuana can hang on for a
little bit and make it widespread enough, then you will come to the
conclusion that you would be in favor of making marijuana legal
I, I would oppose any movement with
any of the drugs that would make them more accessible. I would oppose
anything that would make tobacco more accessible, for example, reducing the
tax on it. Anything that increases the, the population's access to dangerous
substance; it costs us 45 billion dollars a year to let each citizen set his
level of alcohol consumption, about 20 billion to set the levels of tobacco.
And I don't think it's—, we can afford to have them set the levels on
I don't know whether we can
afford, but you don't want to let them make the decision. In other words,
you're saying we're going to draw the line here. We've got the evils of
alcohol and the evils of tobacco; but that does it— no more vices allowed in
Where does it come down to that somebody
ought to be able to make the choice himself? If somebody wants to drink in
the privacy of his home, if he wants to smoke a cigarette with or without
marijuana in the privacy of his own home; he's not going to drive the car;
shouldn't it be his right to do that?
Well, if you could have it only restricted to adults who use it occasionally
in their homes, it might be one argument. But the fact of the matter is that
is not the case. And any movement in our society to reduce the penalties and
increase the access would be interpreted as a signal in this society that
this is an approved activity, and I don't think there's any avoidance of
that. And that signal would go to kids and to people who would use more
I think there has to be a
differentiation between making something legal and condoning something. For
example, we condone free speech. We allow people to advocate obnoxious
doctrines, people can be Nazis in the United States. Do you think because we
say that we condone free speech that somehow we are condoning
No, I don't. But I think that if
we legalize marijuana, we would be giving a signal to all American citizens,
particularly young, that we thought that there was something okay about this
And what kind of a signal do we
give now? What about the enforcement problems? What about the four hundred
and fifty plus thousand people, most of them young people, who are arrested
every year at a cost of 600 million dollars, and the alienation of young
people and the disrespect for the law and, indeed, the contradictions
inherent in the hypocrisy of saying that alcohol is okay; marijuana is not
okay? Doesn't that lead to social problems?
Yes, it does. There are costs associated with any activity that we
have, but I think the costs associated with what we're doing now are much
less than the costs would be if we legalized it.
It strikes me as a bit curious that you find that the cost of
freedom is something that you're unwilling to tolerate; but the cost of
regulation of government control, which, Lord knows, abounds in this
society, if you want to draw a line, why not draw it there? It seems to me
the cost overall would be borne more easily if we were allowed to be a freer
group of people.
One brief response
I think if you drew the
line there with marijuana, it would be very hard to stop at the point of not
doing the same with hashish and cocaine; and we would have a whole long
litany of other drugs that would be going through that same door.
All right, Doctor, we're going to go back to Mr.
Rusher. Don't go away— just a question or two from your own
Doctor, two quick questions. I
didn't get a chance to ask you before about the effect of present levels on
memory, particularly in the young.
The marijuana definitely affects memory, particularly a change in storage of
long-term memory; and it affects learning while the individual is stoned;
and we are very concerned about young people who are stoned in
And second and
last—what would be the effect of legalizing marijuana as Mr. Nelson
We have 60 million drinkers in
this country. We have 40 million tobacco smokers, 16 million marijuana
smokers now. I would say that 16 million figure would double or perhaps
triple within a decade if we legalize the drug.
Dr. DuPont, thank
you very much for being with us. Appreciate it. For those of you who may
have joined us late. We're debating the question of the legalization of
marijuana this evening. Advocate Avi Nelson has presented his first witness,
Mr. Peter Meyers, who is counsel to a national organization seeking the
reform of marijuana laws, who argues that our present enforcement of the
laws and, in fact, our effort to declare and determine that it's illegal is
counter-productive; and denial of equal liberty. On the other hand, Mr.
Rusher has presented his first witness, Dr. Robert DuPont, who has argued
very strongly that we should not legalize marijuana, that to do so would be
a signal to our society, and particularly to our young people, that
marijuana will, in fact, and is, in fact, a perfectly acceptable practice.
Now, we're going to go back to Mr. Rusher; and he will be presenting another
I call as my second witness the
Honorable James L. Buckley.
The Advocates, Senator Buckley.
Buckley was from 1970 to 1976 a member of the United States Senate. Senator
Buckley, I was going to take you through some of the territory Mr. Nelson
spent working with Mr.—, Dr. DuPont. You're against legalizing marijuana but
aren't Conservatives against unnecessary government control over
Yes, they are, as a matter
of general principle. But we also understand that if individual action can
threaten social harm, then the step, the state has a, not only a
responsibility to move in, it has to. Take heroin, for example, as a classic
example in the same field. Now, as Dr. DuPont pointed out, in very recent
years, and in the last three or four years, a tremendous amount of new
information has come out underscoring that unlike the assumptions of most
people, particularly the users, that this is really a relatively harmless
drug, it is, in accordance with this test—, evidence, a very dangerous drug.
This has been established. What we do not yet know is how dangerous. Let me
go through some of these aspects. For example, as Dr. DuPont testified, the
principle ingredient is fat-soluble. It concentrates in the reproductive
organs, in the brain. Therefore, someone using just one, two, or three
marijuana cigarettes a week will be exposed continuously to this damaging
substance. And this will have a long-range, and some believe, irreversible
effect on the ability to concentrate, to study, to do all of these things
that enables someone to function as a human being. Secondly, we have the
genetic aspects of this. We all are concerned over nuclear waste, over
radiation. Why? In part because of cancer, but also in part because of our
fear of putting into the bloodstream of humanity mutations that can be
dangerous down stream. We have the obligation to project—, protect future
generations from the potential damage done by present users.
There's been a lot of talk this evening about the
young. Dr. DuPont mentioned them as particularly in peril, why not legalize
marijuana as Mr. Nelson, I take it, would propose, just for people above 18
or something like that as we do alcohol?
Well, first of all, my concerns aren't limited to the very young. But I
would say this—that anyone who is fatuous enough to really believe that you
can legally sell marijuana to an 18 year-old high school senior and some
won't find itself into the hands of a 17 year-old junior, simply doesn't
know how the world operates. You can easily smuggle marijuana in. It's much
easier than taking a six-pack of beer. And even that has proven to be a
problem. And look at pornography.
Speaking of alcohol, speaking of alcohol, and for that matter, tobacco, the
harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco are at least as well established as
the harmful effects of marijuana; yet we don't make their use a crime. Isn't
that an analogy?
Well, I would say in
the case of tobacco, my libertarian instincts come pretty much to the fore.
The principal effect of tobacco, and incidentally, this is remote in time
from the time the habit is undertaken, and also statistically small; people
are talking about incurring emphysema 20, 30, 40 years later, dying of
cancer, that time span; and you are affecting most directly the individual
himself. In the case of alcohol—clearly a social impact; and I would say
that if this were a new drug seeking entry into our society today, I would
be opposing its legalization. But we have had this one in western
civilization for 2,000 years, and it is—
—alcohol—simply—, and it is
simply too late. In the case of marijuana, it's been around about 20 years.
Yes, it's beginning to spread like wild fire among the young. But I believe
that in part, it is spreading because people assume it is harmless; and that
once aware of the facts, we will see the tide turn. At least we have the
chance to turn that tide, and it is our obligation to do so.
Lastly and briefly, Senator, wouldn't legalizing
marijuana be one way to bring it under control? As matters stand, its sale
and distribution is in the hands of hoodlums now.
The problem is that if you legalize something, it is automatically
assumed that you condone it. And we would be condoning it just at the time
when evidence is finally coming to the fore illustrating how dangerous it
is, evidence that we need to pursue 'til we grow the full dimensions of the
dangers. No, this is not what we need for this country at this
All right, Senator, let's go over
to Mr. Nelson; and he will ask you some questions also.
Thank you. Senator, I was glad to hear that there
are some libertarian instincts still alive. I would ask you the question,
appealing to those libertarian instincts—would you say that somebody has a
right to take something even if that something is harmful, even if you and I
would adjudge it to be the wrong thing to do for that individual?
If there were no collateral effects that impinged
on other people, generally speaking, I would say, "Yes." I do believe in the
laws against suicide, however.
say "collateral effects," are we back to future generations? Should I raise
the specter of perhaps we will find out that smoking has genetic questions
or raises genetic questions, that alcohol may have genetic problems? What do
you mean by "collateral effects"?
first of all, it's the genetic one. This is not pure speculation. There is
hard evidence to suggest that this may very well be a problem, and it would
be irresponsible for us to allow the marijuana habit get totally out of hand
so we could not reverse it during the period in which we pursue this one.
Secondly, we have the fact that we are talking about a younger generation.
You cannot say that legalizing something at the college level and the senior
high school level is not going to impinge on younger people who simply
aren't able to make value judgments; and so I'm saying*--
my 15 year-old child is threatened by the legalization of marijuana for
Your 15 year-old child, and in
fact, all, indeed, all minors may be threatened by your refusal to legalize.
As a matter of fact, we have in this society now prescription, legal
prescription against legalization, against marijuana; and the fact is that
we have perhaps an epidemic of drug abuse, especially marijuana abuse among
young people. Indeed, one might cite that the forbidden fruit syndrome is
applying here, that forbidden fruit is all the more tempting. I don't see
that your way has worked to guard young people.
No, because my way hasn't been tried. I think the fundamental
issue here is not whether you're a libertarian and I'm not, but whether or
not this substance is harmful or not harmful. If it is not harmful, then why
should the kids pay attention to their parents? Then it's a silly law to
outlaw it. On the other hand, if this new evidence, if these new studies do
point to very serious dangers, then I believe we should advertise those. We
should not give the wrong signals by legalization so that the youngsters
have a chance to evaluate the facts as they are today, not as they were
thought to be, believed to be yesterday.
But certainly in terms of harmful substances, I come back to smoking
cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol. I can even go to the next step and talk about
obesity, which is obviously going to cause greater concern with you—, if you
go visit your doctor, he'll tell you that you have a greater chance of
incurring serious illness if you're overweight, than if you're smoking or
drinking or smoking marijuana. Should we make obesity illegal? I mean,
should the government get in and regulate people's diet, how much sleep they
What you're talking about is things
that individuals shouldn't do because it's bad for their health. I'm talking
about things that A) impinge on an age group; and number 2—there's another
aspect of this. If, in fact, one out of nine people are taking—, high school
students—, are smoking marijuana every day, then we are going to see a
significant percentage of that growing generation simply not being able to
cope with life; and that will affect us all.
I contend that what you see is people, young people, who look at
their elders and see the hypocrisy and the contradiction and, therefore,
it's not so much that they can't cope with life but that they reject the
value system of their elders as being inconsistent. But let me,
No. You're wrong
—bear with me for a moment. I
wanted to ask you to go take your genetic argument—would you say that people
who sign a pledge that they're not going to have children or people who are
sterile or beyond child-rearing or child-bearing age, should they be allowed
to have marijuana?
I'm saying you're not
going to distort the validity of our genetic pool and throw in mutations
that could be damaging to future generations.
And I would suggest that that sounds like—
Sterility does not take that risk, I assure
Sterility does not.
To sterilize yourself does not impose this risk on
the future generation.
So, people who are
sterile, you would say, could take marijuana.
No, because I also say you're not able to isolate these cases out.
If you have glaucoma, and if the F.D.A. says this is an appropriate drug to
relieve the pressures, then I say, "Go ahead and prescribe it."
I would like to get to another point you raised,
and that is that if we were to legalize this, we will somehow implicitly
condone it. And again, I would like your response to the differentiation
between legalizing something and condoning it. Isn't it true that we do
legalize free speech, overeating and not getting enough sleep; but we don't
condone any of those things? Can't we make that separation—that mental
In a society that will not allow
you to take one saccharin because it might conceivably give you cancer 40
years from now, if at the same time you say on the other hand, in the case
of marijuana, where we have all of this evidence that it does some very
serious things, not 30 years from now but next month, next year, the year
after that, it just isn't plausible to young people coming up. And by the
time they've figured out what's plausible and implausible, it's too
Senator, do you agree with the
seen the evidence. I suspect I don't.
would suspect so, also. Thank you.
that note we're going to go back to Mr. Rusher for another question or
I'd like to continue with Mr.
Nelson's point about the disrespect for law that we are breeding among the
young by banning something which then they can probably get anyway, if they
tried, at any rate. Is this a valid point? Are we really in fact simply
breeding disrespect among our young people?
Again, we're getting down to what I believe to be the fundamental
issue here: what are the facts as to the state of research on what marijuana
does and does not do to an individual. Under the present understanding that
is common in the young generation, the understanding that this is relatively
harmless, much less harmful than cigarettes or tobacco, then the existing
law is wrong; it is hypocritical; and yes, it breeds disrespect. Of course,
it does. On the other hand, if we change that basic perception, if we are
able to persuade youngsters that the analogy to heroin, for example, is a
more accurate one in terms of the quality of damage, in terms of the
long-range effects on that individual, then I believe that you will find
that the law is respected, even if disobeyed. You referred earlier to
speeding violations. I'm sure many millions of people are arrested for
speeding and people don't like being caught, but they're not asking for
those laws to be abolished.
afraid I'm going to have to interrupt. Thank you for being with us. Let's go
back now to Mr. Nelson with his final witness.
Thank you. I call Dr. Lester Grinspoon.
Welcome to The Advocates, Doctor. Nice to have you with
We've heard a lot of testimony about
medical effects. Dr. Grinspoon is a professor at the Harvard Medical School
and is the author of the book entitled Marijuana Revisited. Dr.
Reconsidered, I'm sorry. Dr. Grinspoon, perhaps we
ought to begin with the question of genetics. Now, a lot has been made by
the other side about implicit genetic damage if you smoke marijuana. Is this
Well, I, I think that what they
may be referring to is the so-called threat to the chromosome that marijuana
was once thought to pose. This was first proposed in 1972 by a man by the
name of Stenchever. It caused a lot of fuss in the newspapers. To make it
very short, since that time, a number of good prospect of studies which are
methodologically much more sound than those of Stenchever have completely
demolished that-possibility and in fact at a conference on that very
subject, when the conference chairman concluded that there was no convincing
evidence that marijuana was any more important with respect to chromosome
damage than aspirin or Valium, Dr. Stenchever himself was willing to go
along with that.
Now, you're in favor of
Have you always held that
No I have not.
What made you change your mind?
Well, I began to learn something about it. In
1967, I began to study marijuana and found that I was appalled at how much I
had been brainwashed, I think is the best word, by the Federal Bureau of
Narcotics into believing such things that marijuana was addicting, that it
led to the commission of crimes, that it led to sexual excess, whatever that
is, etc., etc.; and as I learned more about it, I had to reconsider my
Well, we've heard a lot of
testimony on the other side, especially from Dr. DuPont. Let's take some of
them in order, if we might. What about THC ending up in the fatty
Well, THC does end up in the
fatty tissues, but as Axelrod and Limburger showed, it has a half-life of
about 28 days. And this means that it's excreted from the body like this.
Now, it's perfectly true there will be minute amounts of THC in the fatty
tissues for some days after the marijuana is smoked; but what's important is
not whether the THC is there or not. What's important is whether it's
harmful, and there is no evidence that the fact that THC resides in fat
tissue for a period of time, leads to any kind of harmfulness.
Doctor, the half-life is 28—
Twenty-eight days—okay. What about the respiratory
Well, there again, one could
say a lot about that except that I think that the only thing that's been
established for sure is that, by and his group is that respiratory—, there
is some degree—, mild degree of obstruction. This led to the erroneous
comment that one marijuana cigarette is equal to 16 cigarettes. That was
made by a subject of Tashkin and Tashkin himself was embarrassed that NBC
used that five cigarettes verses a hun—, five marijuana cigarettes verses
116 tobacco cigarettes on their program—
—I would say that the
biggest threat to the pulmonary system right now, although, according to the
New York Times that has ended, has been what the U.S. government has done,
namely sprayed marijuana in Mexico with paraquat an herbicide which clearly
causes pulmonary disease.
question and a brief answer, please.
about any danger to the brain? Is there any?
No. The—. None that has been established. That was all started
by a paper by the—, a man by the name of Campbell; and again, a brief answer
is that the—, when attempts were made to replicate Campbell's findings, it
was impossible to do so.
turn now to Mr. Rusher for some questions. Mr. Rusher—
Has the Surgeon General, Doctor, in your knowledge,
made any statements about the dangers of marijuana?
The Surgeon General has—. Do
you mean the Secretary of H.E.W.?
thought I was talking about the Surgeon General.
I don't know what the Surgeon General has to say about
marijuana. I know that the Secretary of H.E.W. just released the seventh
annual report on marijuana and health.
suggest to you that the Surgeon General has suggested that marijuana is in
certain respects harmful. You're not familiar with that in any
Well, I'm not familiar with the
particular report that you're talking about. The latest report from the
government is the seventh annual report Marijuana and Health.
Let's take some of the things you are familiar
with. You mentioned that there is a mild degree, I believe you said, of
obstruction, what—, of the airways of the lungs?
Suppose a person said
that he was cutting down on the use of marijuana because he had a cough.
Would that be a medically sensible statement to make?
That would be a medically sensible statement to
And as a matter of fact, it was
made by the National Chairman of NORML himself, the boss at that time was
Mr. Meyers over here when he was on NBC just six months ago,
So we know there is some, as you say, mild degree of obstruction of
the airways of the lungs.
believe that he cut down because of obstruction—
I don't believe he cut down either, but that's what he said he was
doing. Let's get into the matter of testosterone. Did I understand you to
say that there is absolutely no effect from marijuana on the level of
testosterone in men?
No. There is an
effect on testosterone.
Oh, there is?
Now, why did you say, then, that it has absolutely no effect on the
I don't believe
that I did say that.
You did. In any
case, you don't say it now.
What effect does it have?
Wait a minute. Would you let me
You see, there is an effect on testosterone. That was first
established in 1974 by Dr. Kolodny.
It is a diminution in the level
of testosterone but as Kolodny himself was careful to point out, it does not
get into any subnormal range. And there is no clinical evidence that it has
Right. In other words,
what happens is that the level of testosterone drops within what might be
called a normal range to the lower levels of the normal range but not
outside, as I understand it.
within normal range, and in fact—
—for a while. Now—
For a while. Yeah, and
if he smokes some more, it drops some more.
It stays at the lower level; it doesn't necessarily continue.
No it doesn't. No it doesn't.
been demonstrated by Satz and Fletcher that in fact in the Costa Rican study
that men who have smoked marijuana for a long period of time, and their
subjects had smoked it for a mean of 17.1 years, have no drop in the level
How many people were
involved as subjects in that Costa Rican study?
In the Costa Rican study, I believe there were 41.
Forty-one people. Would that be sufficient to have
Did you know how
many there were in the Kolodny study?
many were there? How many were there in the Kolodny study?
Much fewer than
Oh, I think about 20.
Now then in the Kolodny study, or in the Costa Rican study, were there in
either ca—, would there have been enough people involved to establish, say,
that you get cancer, can get cancer from smoking tobacco?
Well now, that's a different question all
Neither—, neither one, neither one would be able to pick that
up. There's no question about that.
right. And in the case of brain damage, you say no brain damage has been
Will you go the crucial extra step and say that
there is no brain damage?
There is no
evidence of brain damage,
No evidence of
brain damage. Will you then take that—, has there been sufficient testing so
that we can say with confidence that there is none?
One can say that about no drug.
One can say that about no drug. So that we're just
going to have to take whatever chance is involved in this particular case
with regard to, brain damage is your point?
Well, we take that chance with an awful lot of drugs.
Right. And you want to take it with this. Would you
favor legalizing cocaine, Doctor?
I'm not in favor of legalizing cocaine.
Because I don't feel that we
know enough about cocaine at this point to be able to say.
But you do feel we know enough about marijuana. No
problem with that.
I think we know
enough about marijuana in adults to be able to say that the most sensible
way to approach it is to legalize it.
Would you recommend that a pregnant woman smoke marijuana?
No. But I wouldn't recommend that a pregnant
women use any drug whatsoever.
But the point is that you wouldn't because in this case, it would be harmful
or potentially harmful.
It's simply a question of conservatism. I do not recommend that pregnant
women use even aspirin.
No. I understand
that any drug beyond—, or other than just simply healthy nutrition is bad
for a pregnant woman. We're trying to establish that marijuana, like other
things, including—. I've never said—, I certainly don't argue that marijuana
is the only dangerous drug in the world. I am simply establishing that it's
in the category. That's all, Doctor. And it seems to me, that with all that
you don't know about marijuana, it would be nice if you would at least agree
to wait to establish some of these questions a little more firmly before you
attempt to inflict it in terms of legalizing it in the United
Now, Mr. Rusher—
Mr. Rusher, we have time for a response from Dr.
Grinspoon and then we're going to have to close this line of
As Mr. Goddard, Dr. Goddard, who is the former
head of the F.D.A. said in reviewing my book in 1971 that he wished that
there were as much known about many of the drugs, most of the drugs that we
prescribe and that are over the counter as is known, as was known then about
And look all that's happened
to learn about marijuana since 1971,
And everything that has happened that has made it seem a less harmful drug
Gentlemen, I'm sorry I have to interrupt. Let's go
back to Mr. Nelson for another question or two.
Dr. Grinspoon, let's make a comparison between alcohol, tobacco,
marijuana. Of those three, which would you say is the least
All of them have a
potential for harmfulness, but marijuana has the least potential; and
there's no question it wins it hands down.
Now, what about the question—can we just keep it illegal and
educate the young people not to use it?
No. If we continue to keep it illegal, young people will
continue to find us not credible as drug educators.
And one last question, to go back for a moment to
the study you began to cite. What about the long-term use of marijuana?
There have been studies on people who have been using it for a considerable
period of time. What have they shown?
Those studies have failed, and there have been three. I mean the United
States went to countries where people have used it. The Greek study, people
had used it at a mean age, a mean length of time of 23 years. The mean age
of onset in the Costa Rican study was 15.2 year. The youngest was a boy 9
year. None of them have been able to develop any clinically convincing
evidence in comparing these with carefully matched controls that there is a
great harmfulness to—, or any harmfulness that they could generate, to the
long-term use of marijuana.
Dr. Grinspoon, thank you very much
for being with us. Appreciate it. I must say I've learned something. It's
the first time I learned that the Hellenic culture involved marijuana—new
one on me. Now we're going to go to closing arguments from our advocates,
and we're going to begin for one minute with Mr. Nelson.
I recommend that you not smoke marijuana. I don't
recommend that you become an alcoholic, can't recommend tobacco cigarettes,
recommend obesity or too little sleep. Matter of fact, I don't recommend any
of the abuses to the body that we might call a moral violation to the person
him or herself. But my recommendation and your agreement with it is not
grounds for putting these prohibitions in a legal code. There's a serious
question here about children. But the current method has not worked, and we
certainly are not in better stead with our children if we are hypocritical
and active with duplicity by making alcohol and tobacco legal on the one
hand and making marijuana illegal on the other. And fundamental, we come
back to it again. We have concern for children. We also have to concern
ourselves about individual rights. The fact still remains that adult human
beings in a free society ought to be able to live in a lifestyle which is of
their choosing and not necessarily one which is mandated from above by other
elements in society or by government. Social harm is always the catch
phrase, the justification for government intrusion. We have too much of it.
In this area, let's recognize individual rights. Let's legalize marijuana
Mr. Rusher, you, too, have
You've heard the medical
evidence. And if your mind has been truly open, I don't think you will doubt
any longer that marijuana is harmful. The real question is what to do about
it. The other side's curious answer is legalize it. Accept it. Control it,
if at all, by embracing it. I yield to no one in my respect for the
principles of responsible libertarianism. But legalizing marijuana won't
truly serve those principles. It's a far more insidious drug than anyone
realized until very lately and its ill effects are not recognized by users
until too late, in fact, if they are ever recognized at all. If it's true
that 43 million Americans have tried marijuana at least once, it is also
true that 170 million haven't. It is bidding to become endemic in our
society, but it hasn't reached that point yet; and it needn't unless we open
the doors ourselves. No law ever stamped out anything completely, but
intelligent laws can and do proclaim a society's policy. It must not become
the policy of this society to encourage marijuana. I ask you to vote
Thank you, Mr. Rusher. Now, we turn
to you in our audience and ask us what you think. What do you believe?
Should we legalize marijuana? Send us your "Yes" or "No" vote with your
comments on a postcard and mail it to The Advocates, Box 1979, Boston,
On May 20, The Advocates debated the
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Our audience responded this way: 34 percent said, "Yes": 66 percent said,
On May 27, The Advocates debated the
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On June 3, The Advocates
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our audience responded this way: 23 percent said, "Yes," and 77 percent
Our thanks to Mr. Nelson, to Mr.
Rusher, to their very distinguished witnesses for a very fine and lively
debate. This will be our final show of our ADVOCATES season this year. Over
the next six weeks or so, you'll be seeing some of the shows that we've done
earlier in the season. And I personally, as moderator, and on behalf of all
of us at The Advocates, want to thank a fine staff, our wonderful advocates
and very, very distinguished witnesses, and all of the people who have made
it possible for us to be with you this season. We thank you, too, as our
audience, and a special thanks to the Kennedy School of Government here at
Harvard University, our host. Thank you very much and good night.