ONE OF THE MORE FREQUENT and serious charges levelled against marihuana is that it is a crime-producer.
Because of the aura of mystery that surrounds marihuana and its usage, the uninitiated (who are usually the anti-marihuana spokesmen) have used random examples regarding people who were under the influence of marihuana and committed a crime. Interestingly enough, the examples that are most often given in evidence are usually ghastly and horrible crimes. The pot smoker, apparently, will stop at nothing. The anti-marihuana proponents present such evidence as conclusive simply by correlating marihuana smoking with criminal activity.
Before exploring certain evidence, two examples of the strange rite of marihuana consumption will be given. The activities are not considered criminal ones in the country where they are practiced, but they would be both criminal and mysteriously feared if the same actions were to take place in the United States—if caught in this country, the participants would be locked up. Yet to a marihuana smoker, they would merely appear curious.
Smokers in Mexico often sit around a round table. An iguana is placed in the center of the table, and leaves from the marihuana bush are rolled into a cigar. As the cigar is smoked and passed to the other people at the table, the person exhaling his puff breathes into the mouth of the person next to him. Thirteen religious and superstitious puffs are taken, and all this time the iguana follows the activity, attracted by the smell of the smoke. As the iguana becomes intoxicated, so do the smokers. When the animal falls down from 'an over-intoxication (even if the group has not taken the full thirteen puffs ), it is time to stop smoking.'
The second tale comes from Tibet.
Momea, as it is called, is a mixture of charas and warm human fat. It is taken by the Dugpas in a weird rite, eaten in a cup made from human skull.2
It is interesting to note that when marihuana was first used for contemplative and religious purposes, and even for the hedonistic purpose of realizing an intoxication, it was not a crime. Since 500 B.c., when the seeds were burned, the practice was not a social evil. It was not until 1,500 years later, or around the 9th century, that such crime-related factors were pondered when Hasan and his band of assassins reputedly used the drug to "fortify themselves for murder."
In describing the association of marihuana and crime, two criteria must be brought to mind. First, the marihuana smoker seeks a level of intoxication when he smokes and finds it unpleasant to go beyond this level. Secondly, the potency of marihuana used in this country is so weak that if the smoker were to attempt to become highly intoxicated, he would have to smoke a great quantity of the stuff and then he would, in all probability, fall asleep. Unless some other drug is taken along with the marihuana, the effects have shown themselves to be mainly anti-crime. Marihuana per se is not a crime-causer; marihuana and alcohol, marihuana and amphetamines, or other drugs, may be. The examples to be given in this chapter are from the usage of marihuana alone, and not from the influence of any other drug.
Usually when crime and marihuana are discussed, the real issue is disguised. It must first be pointed out that in order to obtain any pot, the user must either buy it or grow it, and both activities are illegal (unless he registers and pays a special tax ). If a non-criminal type of person were to buy any marihuana, he would have to associate with another person who sells it, and that seller is engaged in an activity that is not in accordance with the law. He is a criminal. To buy untaxed marihuana is a crime, and to harbor it in the home is a crime, to smoke it is a crime, and to give it away is a crime. The smoker, in other words, becomes a criminal as soon as he exchanges any money for marihuana. As a consequence, the pot smoker develops an increasingly different perspective regarding the law: he is a criminal, every policeman is a threat, and every strange knock at the door is a threat.
Conveniently enough for the police, the pot smoker has a great deal of difficulty in adjusting to the position of being on the "other side" of the law. As his resentment grows, he develops the attitude that the police aren't really serving in the capacity as "defenders of rights," but that they are infringing on the smoker's rights to smoke. This change in attitude may, admittedly, be a cause for a criminal attitude, and then, after the feeling is developed, even a justification for a crime. After all, the smoker may think, what could be less criminal-like than quietly sitting in a room?
It is often felt that the people who smoke marihuana are generally of the lower economic class. The most apparent exception to this description is that of the college student who, while he is not earning a living, and has an income of less than normal, hardly can be included in this economic classification. Some college students do commit crimes, but they are usually petty. It is sheer conjecture to associate college-area crime with marihuana, however, since there is no way to know how many of the students smoke, how frequently, or what they do when they have smoked.
But at the same time, while being unable to associate the two in that incidence, let us look to the influence of alcohol on crime, for the college student consumes a lot of beer. ( The following report is from South Africa ).
Dagga ( marihuana) produces in the smoker drowsiness, euphoria, and occasional psychotic episodes, but alcohol is guilty of even greater action. It is not certain to what extent dagga contributes to the commission of crime in this country. Alcohol does so in undeniable measure.3
The urge to commit a criminal act can evolve from a number of reasons; compulsion, excitement, necessity, caprice, and expedience, to name but a few. Because the smoker of marihuana experiences different attitudes toward society, he may experience a different attitude toward crime. But that is not to say that the marihuana causes him to justify a criminal action—except, of course, his association with the drug itself. There appears, however, to be some sort of association in the public's mind. It is similar to the wide-held belief that people who wear leather jackets are frequently guilty of petty crime. It does not follow that the leather jackets caused the crime.
And, from the standpoint of associations, most Western authorities seem to agree on the following two points:
1. Marihuana smokers are usually found in the lower class.
2. Most crimes are committed by the lower class. Anyone who attempts to establish a causal link between these two facts meets with frustration. He generally resorts to random examples in an attempt to show a correlation. On the other hand, let us observe the evidence and opinion of a policeman:
While it may appear that narcotics as a vehicle of escape is a medium used only by the poor and underprivileged, this is not true: the addicts from the lower social strata and minority groups must steal to support their habits, and for this and other reasons (their underworld associations, activities, frequent misbehavior, etc.) they come to the attention of the authorities. The upper class, addicts with money, commit no crime and hence few of them are known to the police and enjoy the use and possession of narcotics relatively unmolested until their "legal" sources of their drugs run dry.
The availability of narcotics is a major cause of addiction and this applies to all classes of addicts. The medical profession has ready access of drugs and for this reason addiction in this group is higher than in any other single occupational category.
Among young people, narcotics are available because there is a ready market for them; drugs that run the gamut from aspirin, pep-pills, and inhalers, to marihuana, morphine and heroin, are experimented with by the adolescent as a form of rebellion. To rebel against parents, school, and a "grown-ups" society in general is characteristic of youth. To call such experimentation and later enslavement a form of weakness, is not necessarily sound. One can be just as strong or weak by the virtue of abstinence.4
Although many people smoke marihuana only once and, realizing no effect, choose not to smoke it again, others continue- to use it regularly, and a pattern of usage is established, Lt. Brown says, in a statement that does not eliminate the possibility of having some criminals smoke marihuana:
The average marihuana user is not a maniac or fiend even though this drug does make the user more likely to commit violent acts than do other drugs. The poor grade of hemp smoked in this country is not conducive to extraordinary reactions, being much less potent than the hashish of the Orient.
Seldom is enough smoked to produce serious aberrations other than the goading of the ego to a pitch of false courage sufficient to perform a daring or erroneous feat. The petty-theft may resort to marihuana to gain the boldness necessary for his work; the jazz musician may use it because he presumes it helps him to better appreciate the tempo and to surpass his normal performance, but marihuana will not make a diabolical fiend of the sneak-thief, nor a monstrous sex-maniac of the jazz drummer.
Cannabinol, the intoxicating ingredient of the hemp plant, is not a concoction of witchcraft and does not cause a change in the basic personality structure of the individual. Inhibitions are lessened and latent thoughts and emotions are brought to the surface, but marihuana smoking does not evoke responses which would otherwise be totally alien to the user. Crime prone individuals bolster their nerve by getting "high" before committing a depredation, but what the smoker was before, he will be as a result of marihuana, only more so.5
As crimes against people (robbery, rape, assault, etc.) in this country are on the increase, and as marihuana usage is on the increase, is it possible that the two events are related? A study in India showed that certainly there were some murders committed by persons who were under the influence of ganja, but, remarkably enough, the study also showed that the smoking of marihuana, or even of ganja, might be a preventive measure to all crime.
So far as premeditated crime is concerned, especially that of a violent nature, hemp drugs in some cases may not only not lead to it, but they actually at as deterrents. We have already said that one of the important actions of these drugs is to quieten and stupefy the individual so that there is no tendency to violence as is not infrequently the case with alcoholic intoxication. The result of continued and excessive use of these drugs in our opinion is to make the individual timid rather than lead him to commit a crime of a violent nature.6
The above evidence points to a safety margin in a marihuana intoxication, for the ganja of India is, by and large, stronger than the marihuana of this country.
When a person runs into the street and begins shooting a gun at the people around him, "gone berserk" as the newspapers call it, he is immediately classified as insane, and usually "degraded" too. Sometimes the newspapers say, "full of dope. . . ." Of this rumor, Lt. Brown says:
The violent behavior too often associated with marihuana is not as prevalent as is generally assumed; although some crimes are laid to the influence of the drug, other equally vile offenses in which the perpetrator is allegedly "full of dope" have clearly shown the absence of any drug.?
Lewin's Phantastica, known to many as a classic book in describing drug usage, was first published in 1931. The author describes hemp smokers as being confused while under an intoxication, and gives as an example of erstwhile "criminals," the pirates of Riff, as sitting apathetically in a corner, meditating in silence, totally indifferent to the outer world.8
At the eighty-ninth annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, a study of Cannabis sativa intoxication was presented by Walter Bromberg, M.D. He stated that in a survey of criminal cases in New York City during the years 1932-33, not one case of marihuana smoking was discovered in an examination of 2,216 felonies. None of the assault cases was committed under the drug's influence, nor were any of the sex crimes due to a marihuana intoxication. Bromberg summarizes by stating that a study of the relationship between violent crime and marihuana showed no direct correspondence.9
A committee was set up in 1925, in Panama, to study the use of marihuana, and gave the following recommendation: "That no steps be taken by the Canal Zone authorities to prevent the sale or use of marihuana, and that no special legislation be asked for." 10 But not finding that report adequate, and discovering more and more incidences of marihuana smoking among soldiers ( and finding that the soldiers acted very unmilitary-like ), another investigation was held in 1931. Their conclusions were basically the same as the other's: "There was no tendency to combativeness or destructiveness." 11
The evidence of the foregoing reports was not presented during the hearings prior to the antimarihuana laws. However, the investigations continued.
The report from India in 1939 by R. N. and G. S. Chopra 12 and the report in 1942 by R N., G. S., and I. C. Chopra " are basically identical with respect to crime, stating that the resin from the plant tends to make a person timid rather than aggressive, and that the use of marihuana in India tended to be a deterrent rather than a cause of crime. A table of statistics from the latter report showed that of some 1,200 users of hemp, 83 per cent had no criminal record.
The LaGuardia Report states that no proof was found of an association of crime with marihuana. Petty crimes, however common to the class of the user, proved nothing. The report went on to state that most of the hardened criminals, those who made their living by crime, did not wish to associate with marihuana smokers, feeling the smokers were irresponsible and unreliable, and would be a risk to have around when the crimes were acted out. Although many criminals are irresponsible and unreliable, these two descriptions of marihuana smokers do not make criminals out of them. But the LaGuardia Report could find no positive relationship between crime and marihuana. This thorough, reliable report was also ignored by lawmakers, and has had no influence on the current marihuana laws.
The LaGuardia Report stirred up feelings in many quarters after its publication. Some expressed their emotions via the Journal of the American Medical Association, and an editorial in that journal stated, "Public Officials will do well to disregard this unscientific study and continue to regard marihuana as a menace wherever it is purveyed." Many letters following that editorial were published in the Journal, and their theme both supported and refuted the results of the Mayor's Committee Report. In the Report's conclusions, number ten of the thirteen stated, "Marihuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes." Also, a portion of the conclusion from the report states, "The marihuana user does not come from the hardened criminal class, and there was found no direct relationship between the commission of crimes of violence and marihuana."
The true relation of marihuana to crime, sex, violence, addiction, etc. is questionable: the drug causes different reactions in different people; it is a variable, and its effects have a wide variation. There are, of course, statistics and endless data telling of people who perform just about every imaginable act while under marihuana's spell, but the meaning of these examples does not show any direct pattern between criminal acts and marihuana. There is, in fact, no drug that is a true aphrodisiac; likewise, there is no drug that is a crime producer.
In 1946, a personality study of marihuana users in the Army was conducted at Fort McClellan, Alabama, by Charen and Perelman. Ten of the sixty subjects, mostly Negroes, had run afoul of the law at one time or another, but the report stated that these legal infractions were to be expected, independent of marihuana usage. Family background, personality traits, and a general picture of the smoker had more to do with criminal behavior than did marihuana. The study was summarized ( crime-wise) by the statement: "Use of marihuana lessens or eliminates anxieties which interfere with the urge for lawlessness." 14 Whether the interference is negative or positive, the report neglects to state.
On the other hand, a member of the Expert Committee on Habit Forming Drugs of the World Health Organization ( WHO ), Pablo Wolff, M.D., in an address delivered in 1948 at Buenos Aires, stated that marihuana smoking leads to suicide, murder, and crime in genera1.15 Wolff cites the example of gangs in Brazil that use maconah to initiate new members, giving the youths the courage to perform whatever daring acts were required of them. He also lists random examples of people who were under the influence of marihuana and who committed robbery, theft, and other crimes of a violent nature.
However, another study in Brazil, this one conducted in 1964, tends to negate the above accusations with the following three conclusions:
1. Anti-social occurrences and extravagant acts had nothing to do with cannabis.
2. Cannabis does not have the criminogenic action so unquestionably accepted by the police and by the press itself.
3. It is a false idea that the use of cannabis obligatorily leads the user to a criminal act.16
Another article in the Bulletin on Narcotics, published a year before the preceding one, gives a statement by H. B. M. Murphy: "Most serious observers agree that cannabis does not, per se, induce aggressiveness or criminal activities, and that the reduction of the work drive leads to a negative correlation with criminality rather than a positive one." 17
During the hearings prior to the passage of the Federal Marihuana Tax Act, one of the more reasonable justifications that can be applied to the lawmakers' reasoning for letting such an act come into being was that the lawmakers were convinced, through evidence zealously presented, that marihuana in fact did cause violent criminal behavior. Much of the preceding evidence was probably taken into account by the White House Conference on Narcotic and Dxug Abuse, for they made the statement in 1963: "Although marihuana has long held the reputation of inciting individuals to commit sexual offenses and other anti-social acts, evidence is inadequate to substantiate this." 18
From observations of marihuana smokers, it is difficult to see how the intoxicated could motivate himself adequately to go through the motions of any crime. Many who are under the drug's spell find that simple acts, such as getting a glass of water, are laborious, and it is not uncommon to find a person who is intoxicated so disoriented that he will be standing in the middle of the kitchen, glass in hand, wondering what on earth it was that he was about to do. Also, when going for a walk with an intoxicated person, it is not unusual to have him ask three or four times where it is that he is going. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine how this type of intoxication could allow a person to efficiently steal hubcaps or write a bad check. And to suggest that this kind of intoxication could allow anyone to fulfill the complications of a murder is absurd.
More studies are, of course, urgently needed. Funds must be appropriated to study the personality of the user in all parts of the country, and, for that matter, the world. For if the cannabis user is as peaceful as the past research has indicated, then the statutes are not only outdated, but they are a major source of personal oppression.
1. Pablo Wolff, "Marihuana in Latin America," a pamphlet, Linacre Press, Washington, D. C., 1949, p. 9.
2. Sidney Cohen, The Beyond Within, Atheneum, 1964, p. 15.
3. Editorial, South African Medical Journal, Volume 25, Number 17, pp. 284-286.
4. Thorvald T. Brown, The Enigma of Drug Addiction, C. C. Thomas, 1961, p. 36.
5. Brown, op. cit., pp. 60-61.
6. R. N. and G. S. Chopra, "The Present Position of Hemp-Drug Addiction in India" (A supplement to the Indian Journal of Medical Research), published in the Indian Medical Research Memoirs, Memoir 31, Thacker, Spink and Company, 1939, p. 92.
7. Brown, /oc cit.
8. Louis Lewin, Phantastica, E. P. Dutton, 1964, p. 120.
9. Walter Bromberg, "Marihuana Intoxication," American Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 91, Number 2, p. 327.
10. J. F. Siler, et. al., "Marijuana Smoking in Panama," The Military Surgeon, Volume 73, Number 5, 1933, p. 274.
11. Siler, op. cit., p. 278.
12. Chopra, op. cit., p. 92.
13. R. N., G. S., and I. C. Chopra, "Cannabis Sativa in Relation to Mental Diseases and Crime in India," Indian Journal of Medical Research, Volume 30, Number 1, pp. 155-171.
14. S. Charen and L. Perelman, "Personality Studies of Marihuana Addicts," American Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 102, Number 5, (March 1946), p. 677.
15. Wolff, op. cit., p. 40.
16. Moraes Andreade, "The Criminogenic Action of Cannabis (Marihuana) and Narcotics," Bulletin on Narcotics, Voliime 16, Number 4, 1964, pp. 23-28.
17. H. B. M. Murphy, "The Cannabis Habit: A Review of Recent Psychiatric Literature," Bulletin on Narcotics, Volume 15, Number 1, 1963, p. 16.
18. White House Conference on Narcotics and Drug Abuse, Proceedings, September 27-28, 1962, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., p. 286.