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Chapter 2 — A Profile of the Marijuana Smoker PDF Print E-mail
Written by Erich Goode   
Saturday, 05 March 2011 00:00

Chapter 2 — A Profile of the Marijuana Smoker

Who is the marijuana smoker? The question might seem obvious and unnecessary: the marijuana smoker is one who smokes marijuana. But the question cannot be answered so facilely. How much marijuana? How often? With the heroin addict, we find a more or less built-in polarization. The syndrome of heroin addiction is more clear-cut than with marijuana where we do not find the same compulsion to use. We will, of course, encounter the heroin experimenter, the nonaddicted weekend "joy-popper," the on-again-off-again-heroin user, a high percentage of whom eventually slide into outright addiction. But the proportion of addicts among the universe of heroin users is so enormous that we will be able to characterize the outstanding features of heroin addiction as a way of life, and capture the use-patterns of a significant segment of all heroin users. Our job is more difficult with marijuana use. There is not the same tendency to polarization. Instead, we must think of marijuana use in dimensionalist terms.
Again, who is the marijuana user? What of the college student who, on three occasions, puffed part of a passed-around joint, never became high, and never again used the drug? If we exclude him, what about the housewife who tried the drug ten times, got high twice, decided that her curiosity had been satisfied, and refused it thereafter? Or the Wall Street lawyer who happens upon a pot party once every two months and accepts opportunities to smoke every time they are offered? Is he a marijuana smoker? The solution has to be arbitrary. I have found there is no precise line that may be drawn which delineates the user from the nonuser. There is an unbroken continuum in use from the person who tried it once to the daily user, the mythical six-cigarettes-a-day smoker. (This is often cited as the "average" consumption of the "typical" smoker;[1] probably fewer than one out of a hundred individuals who have tried marijuana smokes that much.)
Although an exact line between the user and the nonuser is impossible to draw, some crude but useful categories of degrees of use might help to clarify the kinds of involvement with the drug that are likely to be encountered. We have the experimenter, the occasional user, the regular user, and the frequent user. Where we separate these categories is partly a matter of taste and cannot be decided with much rigor or with impelling logic. Further, it must be realized that there is no necessary progression from the least to the most involved category. A given user may float in and out of these categories over a period of time.[a] The experimenter may be the largest of these groups, and forms perhaps a half of the total universe of all individuals who have at least tried marijuana at least once. The experimenter may have obtained a high, but perhaps not. He has invariably not sought out the drug, but has been turned on by friends. He is curious about its effects, but, at this point, little more than that. It could be that his curiosity has been satisfied by his first few experiences, but it is as likely that his initial encounters have been either insufficiently conclusive or pleasurable, that is, he did not become as high as his expectations led him to believe to induce him to accept later offers.
In a sense, the experimenter is not really a drug user.[2] However, my analysis includes him. The one-time, two-time, or twelve-time marijuana "taster" will be, in many ways, half-way between the more regular user and the individual who has never had a puff of a marijuana cigarette. By including the experimenter, we capture this spectrum effect of drug use and users, rather than committing the error of reification in thinking in terms of natural airtight categories of use. Moreover, an experimenter has a far higher likelihood of moving into the categories of regular use than does the complete abstainer, although we must not make the opposite mistake and assume that this progression is inevitable. It is neither inevitable nor is it typical. But it is more likely among experimenters, and for this reason, the experimenter is of great interest to us. In much of the description and analysis that follows, both here and throughout the book, I will be describing the user. It must be kept in mind that all social categories are abstractions, and our decision to use one or another must often be based on their usefulness. In most cases, I will term the marijuana user anyone who has tried the drug at least once. I do not claim that a consistent life-style will typify all of these individuals. Nor do I say that a radical disjunction will separate this group from the nonusing group. We have not trapped a distinct social animal by characterizing the marijuana user. But when we compare this gross category with the nonusing category, instructive and dramatic differences emerge. I will rely mainly on the vehicle of the molar comparison—the user versus the nonuser—in delineating the marijuana-smoker portrait. Whenever a different categorization is made, it will be explained.
Public stereotypes change more slowly than that which is being stereotyped. Often an activity or a group will never have its image catch up with itself. These images and stereotypes must be thought of as a kind of reality; they may not accurately describe the group they claim to apply to, but the fact that they are believed makes a great deal of difference, and to understand the social patterns of a given social group, we must often understand the myths that have purported to describe it. The media today transmit public images more rapidly and, possibly, more accurately, than they did a generation ago. The image of the marijuana user in the 1930s was not very different from that of the narcotics addict. The term "addict" as applied to the marijuana smoker was far from unusual; in fact, it was the rule. The milieu from which he came, the day-to-day activities in which he engaged, the dominance of the drug in his life, his involvement with crime, and the effects of the drug on his body and mind, were all thought to be continuous with the junkie's.
Although today many would recognize this typification as bizarre and anachronistic, there will be strong disagreement on even the bold outlines of a contemporary portrait of the marijuana smoker. How, then, can we characterize the potsmoker? What is distinctive about him? We could have our choice of various cliches. The most popular is that he conforms to the current stereotype of the hippie. He is unkempt, unemployed, politically radical (often apathetic), slightly mad, sexually promiscuous, and under the influence of the drug all of the time. Fading under the impact of mass media reports,[3] this image is gradually being replaced by one almost as absurd: the marijuana user is no different from the rest of us. There are the over-forty users, just as there are those under fifteen; there are bankers, executives and physicians, just as there are juvenile delinquents, hippies and criminals. There is the girl next door, and the girl "in the life." There are policemen and political demonstrators, clergymen and atheists, congressmen and the politically disaffected. In short, he could be anyone.[4] No one has ever studied a cross-section of marijuana users, of course, and it is not possible at the moment. Yet, in the absence of such definitive data, it is possible, from dozens of scattered surveys, to construct something like a reasonably accurate picture of what the social characteristics of a large proportion of users are likely to be.



The marijuana user is more likely to be young than old. He is most likely to be in his late teens and early twenties; before, say, age thirteen, and after age thirty, the drop-off in the percentage who have ever used is sharp. Since very young users are extremely conspicuous, and since the fears of the older generation concerning the dangers of drug use are compounded when grade school children are involved, the opinion that use typically reaches down into the ten to thirteen age range has become widespread.[5] Actually, the average age for smoking marijuana is probably dropping, but it is far from typical for grade school children to smoke. In fact, the average high school or even college student has not tried marijuana, although in both milieu it is common among a big minority; however, in some schools, such as some in New York and California, a majority of high school students have tried marijuana. Moreover, among the very young, experimentation will be far more common than is true with older teenagers and young adults; frequent, daily use among early teenagers is extremely rare. In my survey, I interviewed an eight-year-old who smoked marijuana, but this does not mean that use among eight-year-olds, even in New York's East Village, is common.[b] The median age of my informants was twenty-two, with slightly over one-fifth in their teens (21 percent), and less than a tenth ( 7 percent) were thirty or over. At about the same time I was conducting my survey, The East Village Other, a New York underground newspaper whose 25,000 readers include a considerable percentage of drug users, did a study of its own. In the April 1967 issue, EVO included a fill-out, mail-in questionnaire on its readers' drug use. Keeping in mind the extraordinary possibilities for bias and distortion,[6] it should be noted, nonetheless, that the age range of my own study and that of the EVO study are remarkably similar ( see Table 2-1).

Age Range in Goode and EVO Studies
Goode EVO
17 or under 5 16 or under 4
18 or 19 16 17 or 18 11
20 or 21 25 19, 20, 21 28
22, 23, 24, 25 30 22, 23, 24, 25 35
26, 27, 28, 29 18 26 to 30 12
30 or over 7 over 30 10
Age Range in New York Medical College Study (percent)
Teens 22
Twenties 70
Thirties 8

A third study, conducted by two sociologists at the New York Medical College in early 1969, interviewed seventy-four New York user respondents collected by "reputational" methods.[7] The age composition of this group was almost identical to mine and to EVO's (see Table 2-2).

Although none of these studies is random in its composition of users, or in its method of collection, the closeness in correspondence lends credence to the assertion that the age distribution of marijuana smokers in general (or at least in New York City) is very likely to be as described. More striking than its mere youth (since the median age of the American population in general is about

twenty-seven) is the high degree of concentration within the specific age range of about fifteen years, the middle teens upward to about thirty. It is possible that use is spreading beyond these boundaries, both upward and downward; perhaps in a few years, as the present user population grows older, and, possibly, continues to some extent in using marijuana, this over-representation among those in their late teens and early twenties will no longer hold true. In any case, this is, at the present time, the age breakdown of the average user.



The user is more likely to be male than female. Or, to put it another way, men are more likely to smoke, or to have smoked, marijuana than women. The differences between men and women in their potsmoking participation are always fairly small, but distinct. For the addicting drugs, especially heroin, the differences are massive. Only about one-fifth of all known addicts turn out to be women. Men have five times greater chance of becoming heroin addicts than women.[8] The male dominance in marijuana use is never as great as that. In the 1969 American Institute of Public Opinion study (Gallup Poll) of a representative sample of college students,[9] 25 percent of the men and 18 percent of the women had tried marijuana at least once. (The figure for the entire sample was 22 percent.) In the EVO study, all of whom had used drugs, 98 percent of whom- had smoked marijuana, and 85 percent had used hashish at least once, the sex distribution was 69/31, a remarkable over-representation of males in New York's East Village drug-using community. In a study of a sample of students at a small upstate New York college, about 20 percent of the women and 30 percent of the men had used marijuana at least once.[10] Regardless of the locus of the study in question, men were more likely than women to smoke pot.[11]

In our sample, there was a slight skew; 53 percent of our respondents were men, and 47 percent were women. However, since it is not representative, this figure, in and of itself, means very little. The simple population of all those who have had so much as a single puff of a marijuana cigarette is less relevant than levels of use and involvement. Not only are men far more likely to have had at least some minimal contact with drugs, the greater the degree of involvement and use, the greater the over-representation of men will be. Heavy and frequent marijuana use is a decidedly male-dominated activity. Men are more likely than women to use drugs, to use them often, to have tried and used more drugs, and to have participated in a greater variety of drug-related activities, such as buying and selling, turning others on, and, in short, to be far more involved in the drug subculture. These differences are more remarkable for their consistency and direction than for their strength. Of the 105 men in my study, 17 percent said that they smoked marijuana every day, while this figure was 7 percent for the 99 women; 17 percent of the men smoked less than once per month and 28 percent of the women were such infrequent smokers.
The men in my study were also more likely to have tried drugs other than marijuana, as we see clearly in the Table 2-3. Forty-two percent of the women had taken no other drug besides marijuana, while this was true of only 22 percent of the men. This male dominance was maintained for every drug. The proportion of men taking LSD more than a dozen times, as well as the proportion ever taking heroin was about three times that for women: 19 percent versus 7 percent in the first case, and 19 percent versus 6 percent in the second. Men were more likely to be involved in drug-using activities and in the drug-using community in a variety of ways. They were more likely to have drug-using friends than women were. They were also more likely to have bought and sold marijuana. Only one-sixth of the men said that they had never bought marijuana (16 percent), while this was true of between one-third and one-half of the women (42 percent). Typically, the woman is offered the marijuana cigarettes she smokes by a man, and if she buys, she usually buys it from a man. A majority of women have never sold marijuana (69 percent), while a majority of men (55 percent) have.

Percentage by Sex Taking Different Drugs at Least Once

LSD Amphet-
DMT or
Opium Cocaine Mescaline
or Peyote
Men 55 47 28 31 22 25 27 19
Women 41 37 25 14 18 12 8 6

One of the more striking differences in the entire study had to do with the number of people whom the respondent had turned on. A quarter of the men (26 percent) said that they had introduced ten or more people to marijuana for the first time, while only a tiny percentage of the women boasted of this degree of proselytization (3 percent). In part, all of these differences reflect general nondrug and nondeviant differences in gender. The man, after all, buys alcoholic drinks for his female companion, and he is more likely to introduce her to alcohol for the first time than she is to introduce him. These parallels should not be pushed too far, but the use of marijuana, as well as the hallucinogenic drugs, is a decidedly masculine activity. The male can be seen as somewhat "marijuanogenic"; he is more likely than the female to use the drug, to "progress" to other, more powerful, drugs, to buy and sell drugs, and to persuade others to use marijuana. It is from the male that use spreads. So much is this the case that I would speculate that in milieu in which drug use is high, as in colleges and universities, the women who interact most frequently and intimately with males are most likely to at least have tried marijuana, while the women who are least active and most isolated socially are the most likely to be "drug free."



The marijuana user is more likely to live in or near an urban environment than is true of the population at large. Large cities remain the centers of use; in rural areas, marijuana smoking is relatively rare. To be more precise, the larger the urban center, the greater the percentage of its inhabitants who will have smoked pot; the smaller the community, the lower is this likelihood. One of the few exceptions would be in colleges and universities located in rural or small-town areas, but this only confirms our point, since (1) students in these colleges who do smoke are far more likely to come from an urban area; (2) it is generally from the more urban-originated students that use spreads; and (3) in the more urban-located college, the greater the likelihood of use is anyway.
A very rough measure of the gross relative amount of use of various geographical areas may be gleaned from official arrest figures (though there is not space here for a critique of official crime data) and they confirm our impression. We would, of course, expect more marijuana arrests in urban areas, simply because of their larger numbers, but even on a per population basis, urban arrests are far more common with marijuana charges than rural arrests. (This is true of most crimes.) For instance, in California in 1967, half of all adult arrests on marijuana charges ( 13,000 out of a total of 26,000) as well as all juvenile arrests (5,000 out of l0,000) took place in Los Angeles county; the rest were in the remaining part of the state.[12] (However, it is possible that urban police are more diligent and observant, making use and possession more easily detected. ) In a nationally representative survey of the sexual patterns of college youth, Simon and Gagnon found a high correlation between marijuana use and the size of the community in which the respondent had attended high school.[13] Only 3 percent of the college men and 1 percent of the college women from a small town or rural area had ever tried marijuana, whereas the figures were percent and 13 percent of urban and suburban men and women.


Social Class

The class backgrounds of marijuana smokers, as opposed to those who have never smoked marijuana, are relatively higher. Probably the higher the income of one's family, the higher the education of one's parents, and the greater the prestige of one's father's occupation, the greater is the likelihood of smoking marijuana. Also, for the young adult who has begun working, and who has left his family of orientation, the higher is his education, income and occupational prestige, the greater are his chances of smoking marijuana. This might seem peculiar to someone with a narcotics-addict model of marijuana use. Heroin addicts, it is true, are more likely to stem from poorer areas, especially the urban slum. Yet not all social classes find drugs equally appealing. The picture is even stranger in view of the fact that it is possible that a few years ago (before 1960), the class background of the average marijuana user was different. A 1958 textbook on drug use attempted to explain the greater incidence of marijuana use among blacks by the "greater incidence of poverty, slum residence, and socioeconomic discrimination among Negroes," and the author claims that the marijuana user's home is typically poverty stricken.[14] Possibly ten or more years ago, it might have been fair to say that there was something of a negative relationship between social class and potsmoking. Probably the only two groups that used with any frequency were residents of the urban slum ghetto, and Bohemians and beats on the edges of the slum and the black culture—jazz enthusiasts especially.
Today this pattern has been reversed. Regardless of the specific measure of social class we wish to use—whether income, occupation, or education—the higher the social class, and the higher the social class of one's parents, the greater the likelihood the individual will smoke marijuana. There seems to be something like a linear relationship between social status and potsmoking. In a representative study of the high school youth of Michigan conducted in 1968, this relationship was empirically confirmed.[c] Using the father's education as an index of social status, a strong and stepwise correlation between the social class of the high school student and his chances of smoking pot reveals itself; moreover, the higher the student's father's education; the more likely it was that he would see marijuana as harmless or beneficial. ( see Table 2-4).
A Gallup Poll, released in October 1969, verified this positive association between social class and the likelihood of marijuana smoking. About 4 percent of a nationally representative sample of adults said that they "ever happened to try marijuana." The percentage of respondents with a grade school education who had done so was 1 percent; the figure for respondents with a college education was almost ten times as high, or 9 percent. Even in colleges, the same pattern holds. (College students are already a preselected group with regard to class, since their parents' occupation, income and education are generally significantly higher than that of their noncollege age peers.) The June 1969 Gallup Poll of college youth found that those students whose parents' family income was over $15,000 were considerably more likely to have smoked marijuana than those students whose family income was below $7,000.[15] One of the most complete studies of the drug-use patterns of college students, by Richard Blum and others, found that those from the wealthiest families were more likely to have tried marijuana—indeed, to have experimented with all drugs, except the opiates—than those from less affluent families.[16]

Marijuana Smoking and Evaluations of Marijuana by Father's Education
Father's Education Ever Smoked
(per cent "yes")
Is Harmful
Is Beneficial
or Harmless
College graduate 22 52 48
Some college 11 62 38
High school graduate 12 69 31
Some high school 10 77 24
No high school 6 79 21

Not only is the youth with middle-class parents more likely to smoke marijuana than his working-class peer, but middle-class parents are more likely to be tolerant of their children smoking marijuana than working-class parents. Of course, parents of all social and economic levels overwhelmingly oppose marijuana use, especially by their children. But the higher the class level, the greater the chance that a parent will be part of that small minority which does not oppose its use. A Harris survey in 1968 documented this relationship. While 85 percent of the total sample of American parents of teenagers "would forbid" their children's smoking marijuana, this was true of 74 percent of the "affluent" parents. Not only were middle-status parents somewhat more likely to be tolerant of pot use, they also were more likely to know someone who smoked marijuana. While 5 percent of the total sample knew a youth who smokes marijuana, this was true of three times as many of the relatively affluent. Although this was true of every instance of "controversial" behavior questioned in the Harris poll, the edge was greater for marijuana smoking than for any other aspect. "... tolerance of controversial activities among teenagers is greater among the better educated and relatively wealthy [parents]."[17]

The "rebellion" and "rejection of authority" hypotheses of marijuana use and other socially illicit activities would predict that youngsters whose parents most oppose such activities would be most likely to participate in them. My view is that marijuana use like many other forms of behavior that much of society condemns, is partly an extension of the social climate with which the individuals are involved. While most teenagers and young adults who smoke marijuana will find that their parents will condemn their behavior, it is the young adult whose parents are most tolerant toward marijuana use who will be most likely to try using it. Highly authoritarian parents discourage experimentation of all kinds. In part, the use of marijuana is an outcome of less authoritarian parents granting responsibility, initiative, and self-reliance to their children. Teenagers will move somewhat beyond parents' expectations; if those expectations lie close to the unconventional, the child will move into the arena of the unconventional. If the expectations are more severely restricted, the child will move a little beyond that. The potsmoking of young adults is partly an outgrowth and an extension of their parents' attitudes and expectations on marijuana, as well as related issues.
The classic view of class differences in freedom and authoritarianism, still believed today by many practicing psychiatrists, has been that the lower or working classes are freer, more unrestrained, less repressed, more natural and spontaneous, than is true of the middle classes. This point of view has been informed by the "noble savage" ideology, and, later, by many forms of romantic Marxism. Freud, in watching a performance of Bizet's Carmen, was struck by the differences between his own repressed middle-class upbringing and the free, willful, and savage outburst of emotion expressed by the crowds. This tradition influenced social research and theory until a generation ago, when careful surveys revealed that quite the reverse was true.
Working-class parents are far more likely to raise their children in an authoritarian manner; they are more likely to believe, for instance, that the most important thing a child can learn is obedience. The middle-class child is granted more autonomy, responsibility, and freedom, and allowed a freer expression of his emotions than the lower-class child. He is allowed to experiment more, to strike out on his own. It would be strange that these differences did not find their expression in such adolescent activities as marijuana use. (Of course, one problem in interpretation is that the historical trend. has been from a predominantly working and lower-class clientele in marijuana use to a predominantly middle-class one. ) In any case, the lower-class parent, as well as the lower-class child, is more conformist, tradition-oriented, conventional, restrictive, and more likely to stress obedience and a conformity to externally imposed standards. The middle-class person is more permissive, more likely to stress curiosity, exploration, self-satisfaction, self-direction and equalitarianism.[18] All of these attitudes have their impact on the readiness to use marijuana, to re-examine society's restrictions and decide for oneself what might be the most satisfying and interesting and fulfilling path.


College/Noncollege Differences

It is common knowledge that use has spread into the colleges and universities. Studies indicate that perhaps one-quarter of all college youth have smoked marijuana, and more will do so by the time they graduate.[19]This is a massive rise which has taken place only in the past few years. Studies conducted as recently as 1966 and 1967 showed that only something like 6 percent of all college students had tried pot.[20]At least part of this four to five times rise in the space of two or three years is actual. The Columbia Broadcasting System study, based on interviews conducted in April 1969 with about 1,300 nationally representative, randomly selected youths age seventeen to twenty-three, slightly more than half (723) in college and slightly less than half (617) not in college, showed the powerful difference between the average college and noncollege youth in their acceptance or rejection of the marijuana prohibition. College youths were far less likely to accept the prohibition, and far more likely to say that they reject it outright (see Table 2-5).[21]

Columbia Broadcasting System Study
Marijuana Prohibition College Non-College
Accept easily 48 72
Accept reluctantly 20 11
Reject outright 31 17

It is, of course, conceivable that these differences do not translate into actual use patterns. Obviously, not all those who say that they reject outright the prohibition actually use pot, or have ever used pot. But equally obvious, those who say that they reject the prohibition are far more likely to smoke marijuana than those who say they accept it. It seems permissible to conclude from these figures that today's college student is more likely to use marijuana than is his noncollege age peer. But we must keep in mind the fact that the parents of college students are more likely to be middle class than the parents of youths who do not go to college, and by that factor alone, they would be more likely to try pot.
There are, in addition, systematic differences among different types of colleges, as well as different types of college students. We mentioned the urban factor: colleges in or near urban centers will have students who are more likely to smoke pot than rural schools. A second factor is geographical location: colleges and universities on the two coasts, especially in New York and California—especially California—will contain higher percentages of pot-smoking students than those in the South, Midwest, or Rocky Mountain areas. A third factor, interestingly enough, is the quality of the school: the higher the academic standing of a college or university, other things being equal, the greater is the likelihood that its students will smoke marijuana. A study conducted in 1966 demonstrated that a fifth of the students attending the "top ranking" institutions had ever smoked pot (or used "similar drugs or narcotics") while this was true of only 1 percent at the "not very selective" colleges.[22]Since 1966, of course, a rise in marijuana use has occurred in all schools regardless of quality.


Jewish/Gentile Differences

Perhaps because of their urban residence, or partly as a result of their almost exclusively middle-class socioeconomic status, Jews are far more likely to smoke marijuana than Gentiles, at least among young adults. About one-quarter of New York's population is Jewish, and by that factor alone, the Jewish youth is more likely to be exposed to opportunities for use than is the less urban Gentile population. My sample, although not representative, even of New York City's marijuana smokers, at least lends credence to Jewish over-representation among potsmokers; 44 percent of our respondents were Jewish in background. Although it is possible that this over-representation can be entirely explained by Jewish dominance in academic and quasi-academic milieu in New York City (the groups to which I had readiest access), there are indications that lead me to suspect that there are social and cultural factors linking the Jews to activities such as marijuana use.
Jews have historically been at the growing edge of every civilization where they have been a part. Many of the avant-garde political and artistic movements today are associated with marijuana smoking, and the Jews are strongly over-represented in these movements. This does not mean that all Jews are so associated, or that all participants of these movements are Jewish. (Nor is it to say that only those actively involved with social change are likely to smoke marijuana.) But it is to say that Jews will be more likely to be found among the more progressive artists and writers, and among the more radical and revolutionary political activists in America today. And it is precisely the political and artistic avant-garde that is most likely to smoke marijuana. However, we need not even concern ourselves with society's most progressive and revolutionary members, since they form such a tiny percentage of any population. Even contrasting Jews in general ( not merely the most liberal among them) with Gentiles in general, it is clear that in many ways, Jews grow up in a richer, more complex environment, in a family ambiance with a lower level of authoritarianism, greater tolerance, and a respect for intellectual experimentation. (The Jewish family is, however, much more rigid in many other ways, such as the closeness of family ties.) The average youth need not have participated in society's most radical and Bohemian groups to have already developed certain attitudes toward innovation which make marijuana use more likely.
Whatever the reasons, Jewish youths do seem to experiment with drugs, particularly marijuana, more than Gentiles. A study was done by the Toronto Addiction Research Foundation, entitled A Preliminary Report on the Attitudes and Behaviour of Toronto Students in Relation to Drugs. Of the Catholic high school students, 7 percent had taken drugs (mainly marijuana), and 75 percent said that they would not take drugs. These figures were g percent and 74 percent for Protestants. Among the Jewish students, about 15 percent had taken drugs, and 64 percent said that they would not use them. The differences are not dramatic, but they are significant. And they are corroborated by a number of other studies in other locations.


Religious Observance and Belief

Even more dramatic than the Jewish-Gentile split in the likelihood of marijuana use is the difference between anyone who claims to have no religion as opposed to someone who claims some religious affiliation. A "no religion" is highly unconventional in many ways. Politically, he is at the far left of the ideological spectrum. In the CBS study on youth cited earlier, while only 8 percent of the total sample claimed to have "no religion," over 60 percent of the youths classified as "revolutionary" in political ideology said that they had no religion.[23] We would, therefore, expect a "no religion" to be unusual in many other ways. In Blum's college study, for all of the drugs on which a question was asked (except sedatives), "no religions" were by far the most likely of all religious groups to have experimented. (Jews were found to be second for all drugs).[24] The average potsmoker is highly unlikely to be religious in a traditional sense. He is less likely to claim religious affiliation, attend religious services, believe in traditional dogma, or participate in any way, with any of the formal religious bodies. In my study, only one-fifth of the respondents said that they ever attended formal religious services—that is, at least once a year. Slightly over a quarter said that they believed in God; 45 percent were atheists. (The rest had their own private version of God—pantheism, the human spirit as God, "God is love," etc. ) In a study of the student body attending a New York City private high school, the New York Medical College team discovered a number of dramatic and striking differences between the drug users and the nonusers. The largest difference by far had to do with religion. Over half of the nonusers (54 percent ) said that they attended religious services. Not one of the users said that they ever attended religious services.
The Simon-Gagnon college youth study corroborated these findings. Among men who had tried marijuana, 4 percent attended church frequently, while 36 percent of those who had not tried and did not wish to try marijuana, attended services frequently. Expressed differently, 2 percent of the frequent church attenders had tried pot, while 24 percent of those who said that they attended rarely or never had done so.


Political Orientation

One of the most empirically verified of all relationships with marijuana use is political ideology and activity. Marijuana users are far more likely to hold what are considered in America today liberal or radical views. The New York Medical College study of private school youths showed that the users (all but two had used marijuana) were far more active and radical politically. All but two of the thirteen users had joined a Vietnam march or demonstration, whereas just over one-third of the nonusers had done so; about two-thirds of the users agreed that the civil rights movement is not "militant enough," while only about one-fifth of the nonusers agreed.[25] In Blum's study of college drug use, a direct and linear relationship between political leftism and the use of any single illicit drug, including marijuana, was found. The more radical the student was, the greater the chance that he used any drug; the more conservative he was, the lower was this chance.[26] (The two Marxists in the study had not used marijuana, however; I will touch upon this point presently. ) The CBS study, Generations Apart, also documented the powerful relationship between political ideology and the acceptance or rejection of the marijuana prohibition.[27] The more radical the student, the greater were his chances of rejecting the marijuana laws. ( see Table 2-6 ).

Political Ideology by Accepting or Rejecting the Marijuana Prohibition

Revolutionary Radical
Middle of
the Road
Accept easily 5 47 43 77 85
Accept reluctantly 3 8 25 10 8
Reject outright 92 45 32 13 7

The bulk of the most radical of these students (revolutionary) reject the marijuana prohibition, while the same is true of the most conservative wing accepting the prohibition, while the in-between ideological elements are also in-between on the pot issue. Marijuana, by and large, is part of the ideology and even, to a large degree, the politics, of the left wing in America today; at the very least, liberalism and radicalism increase one's chances of approving of pot and using it.
The 1969 Gallup Poll of college students also documented the linear relationship between potsmoking and political attitudes. Whereas about lo percent of the students who classified themselves as conservatives had smoked marijuana at least once, about half (49 percent) of those who said that they were extremely liberal had done so. Only 15 percent of the students who had never participated in a political demonstration had ever smoked pot, but 40 percent of those who had demonstrated had tried marijuana. While over half of the whole sample felt that campus demonstrators who broke the law should be expelled from college, this was true of about a third of the marijuana smokers.[28] By any measure, then, the politics of the average college marijuana user runs at least somewhat to the left of his nonsmoking peers. Political leftists, in general, seem to smoke marijuana more than those who are considered to the right on the American political spectrum.
As a qualification to this massive and unambiguous relationship, it should be stated that there are a number of revolutionary leftist political parties and groups that implacably oppose marijuana use as a "tool" of the ruling classes. Marijuana, the reasoning goes, acts as a pacifier, tends to blunt the revolutionary fervor, one's activist drive.[29] This is, for instance, the position of the Progressive Labor Party, basically, a Maoist organization, which recently split off with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In the film, The Battle of Algiers, the smoking of hashish was depicted as counter-revolutionary; certainly, internationally, communists vigorously oppose use of drugs of all kinds for the same puritanical reasons of many conservatives in America. Many Americans of the far right, however, believe that communists wish to impose drug use on Americans to corrupt them, make them peaceful, decadent and easily conquerable.[30] One of my interviewees, a twenty-one-year-old college student who described herself as a Marxist, revealed her political opposition to the use of marijuana. She said that she had not smoked marijuana for eight months. The following is a section of the interview I completed with her.

Q: Why don't you smoke marijuana more regularly?
A: I'm not letting the big boys take over my mind.
Q: What do you mean, the "big boys"?
A: President Johnson, all the political bosses. I feel powerless and inert if I smoke—I feel guilty. Some people think it's better for us to be stoned.
P: What people?
A: The power structure. They want us stoned because we aren't as politically active then.


Sexual Permissiveness

Potsmokers are more liberal and unconventional in a variety of ways, not merely in political orientation. Sexually, they are more permissive. Or, expressed differently, sexually permissive people are more likely to try and to use marijuana than those who are more restrictive, conservative, or conventional. The more liberal in sexual matters the individual is, the greater is his chance of using marijuana once, a dozen times, or regularly. The two are part of the same basic thrust—freedom from some of the restraining mores of American society. Far more of the Simon-Gagnon college student study who were classified as liberal in sexual attitudes (24 percent of the men, and 14 percent of the women) had tried pot, than those whose attitudes were conservative on the sex-attitude scale (7 percent of the men, and 5 percent of the women). Sexual liberalism seems to increase considerably one's chance of taking marijuana. Sex is another area wherein the middle-class individual is more liberal and permissive—the age-old myths concerning the sexual aura of the lower and working classes notwithstanding. The middleclass sexual relationship is more equalitarian; the female expresses more satisfaction, and reports a higher frequency of orgasm; in intercourse, the couple is more likely to experiment with novel positions, ideas, and situations, and the couple prolongs having sex further into old age. The lower-class sexual pattern is more often characterized by "homosociality"—that is, conquest and exploitation of the female by the male for the purpose of approval from one's peers, rather than for its intrinsic satisfaction. It is characterized by the double standard, by the dichotomy between the good girl and the bad girl, by a narrower range of acceptable activities and a lower level of expressed satisfaction in the quality of the sex experienced, especially by the female, and an earlier discontinuation of sex relations in middle age.[31] (These are, remember, comparative statements.) All of these attitudes and forms of behavior have parallels in marijuana use. The more sexually permissive the person is, the greater the likelihood that the person will smoke marijuana, or try it at least once. The more equalitarian he envisions and acts out his sexual relationships, the greater the chances of potsmoking. The more he rejects many of conventional society's sexual restrictions and prohibitions, the more acceptable marijuana will seem. The more that he feels that the acceptability of a given sexual relationship is defined by the partners involved, rather than by some impersonal and absolute standard, the more "self-direction" he assigns to sexual partners, the less he will reject and condemn marijuana use, and the more willing he will be to actually try it himself. It should be realized, however, that these relationships are not directly dependent on sex itself, but on more fundamental underlying attitudes and behavior. Sexual permissiveness may merely be a manifestation of a general anti-authoritarian stance, a rejection of conventionality of all kinds. Both marijuana use and sexual permissiveness are dependent on the same basic factor, rather than one being dependent on the other.[32]



Many of these relationships can at least partially be captured by the notion of authoritarianism. Two decades ago, a massive study entitled The Authoritarian Personality was published. Although its authors assigned to the concept of authoritarianism an almost cosmic and all-embracing status, we need not be so ambitious in our use of it. Regardless of the generality of its applicability, the fact remains that some of us are more rigid in our thinking processes and in the way we act than others. Some seek comfort in rules, orders, and a strict hierarchy of power, in a black and white notion of right and wrong, an unambiguous morality; these people have an intolerance for ambiguity. Others are more comfortable with ambiguity. They do not need clear-cut rules, nor do they wish to follow a powerful leader. They do not find the need to divide the world up into good and bad, right and wrong; they recognize shades in between, and this does not distress them unduly. They do not ask, upon entering a new social situation, "Who's in charge here?" They seek the relevance of axes unrelated to power and authority, which are far less important to them. Some of us, in short, are highly authoritarian, while others are far less so. As we might expect, this conceptual scheme has relevance for marijuana use. Some are content to rest with society's prohibition: "No pot." Others, with a more flexible notion of right and wrong, do not accept this axiom. They have a more relativistic notion of right and wrong. Individuals with authoritarian attitudes are far less likely to smoke marijuana than those low in authoritarianism. In the Simon-Gagnon college survey, only 6 percent of the high-authoritarian men had tried marijuana, whereas 28 percent of the low-authoritarian men had; the figures for women were 3 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Chapter 3



a. Actually, the way I have constructed these categories, it would be possible to move back and forth between the last three—from occasional to regular to frequent use and back again—but not in and out of being an experimenter. I look upon experimentation with marijuana as having used the drug less than a dozen times in one's lifetime, so that after that, one moves out of this category for good. Thus, this scheme is not a true typology. (back)
b. In fact, I saw marijuana-using parents give a joint to their two-, three-and four-year-old children, much as a French mother might give her child a sip of wine to quiet him but this is, obviously, extremely rare. (back)
c. The study was conducted by Richard Bogg of the School of Public Health, University of Michigan. This table was not tabulated in the study. I want to thank Professor Bogg for supplying me with the IBM cards on which the data are stored, so that I could make these tabulations myself. (back)
1. Six cigarettes a day figure was cited in the classic, The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York ("The LaGuardia Report"), and quoted thereafter as gospel. No one bothered to check its validity. It bears about as much correspondence to reality as does the statement that the typical drinker of liquor consumes a half a quart of Scotch a day. (back)
2. Kenneth Keniston, "Heads and Seekers: Drugs on Campus; Counter-Cultures and American Society," The American Scholar 38 (Winter 1969): 99. (back)
3. During the period of the interviews I conducted (July and August 1967), most of the mass magazines with the largest circulation, such as Look, Life, Newsweek, ran full-length articles on marijuana use, emphasizing the complexity of the users' characteristics. Many of the smokers I interviewed incorrectly took this as evidence of the immanence of the end of the marijuana laws. (back)
4. John Rosevear, Pot: A Handbook of Marijuana (New Hyde Park, N. Y.: University Books, 1967), p. 118. (back)
5. For a report expressing concern over the youth of recent smokers, "The Drug Generation: Growing Younger," Newsweek, April 21, 1969, pp. 107-108, 110. (back)
6. Obviously, readers of EVO are not representative of drug users in general, even those living in New York's East Village. And those who had the six cent stamp to mail in the questionnaire will be somewhat different from those who did not, those who are willing to fill it out in the first place will be dissimilar in some ways from those who are not willing. And so on. (back)
7. Richard Brotman and Frederic Suffet, "Marijuana Users' Views of Marijuana Use" (Paper presented at the American Psychopathological Association Annual Meeting, February 1969). (back)
8. See Ernest Hamburger, "Contrasting the Hippie and Junkie," The lnternational Journal of the Addictions 4 (March 1969): 123-126, for data on the sex ratios of drug addicts. (back)
9. American Institute of Public Opinion, Special Report on the Attitudes of College Students no.48 (Princeton, N. J., June 1969), p. 30. (back)
10. Martin E. Rand, J. David Hammond, and Patricia Moscou, "A Survey of Drug Use at Ithaca College," The Journal of the American College Health Association 17 ( October 1968): 43-51. (back)
11. See also Richard Blum et al., Students and Drugs (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1969), p. 64; Brotman and Suffet, op. cit., p. 6. (back)
12. State of California, Department of Justice, Bureau of Criminal Statistics, Drug Arrests and Dispositions in California, I967 (Sacramento: State of California, 1968), pp-4,5 (back)
13. William Simon and John H. Gagnon, The End of Adolescence: The College Experience (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), forthcoming. (back)
14. David P. Ausubel, Drug Addiction (New York: Random House, 1958), pp. 94, 95. (back)
15. AIPO, op. cit., p. 30. (back)
16. Blum et al., op. cit., p. 66. (back)
17. Louis Harris, "Parents Draw the Line at Drug Use," The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 4, 1968. (back)
18. Hundreds of articles, books, and studies have discussed and tested these relationships. See Albert K. Cohen and Harold M. Hodges, "Lower-Blue-Collar-Class Characteristics," Social Problems 10 (Spring 1963): 303-334; Melvin L. Kohn, Class and Conformity (Homewood, III.: Dorsey Press, 1969). See also the relevant papers in Rose Laub Coser ed., Life Cycle and Achievement in America (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1969), and Alan L. Grey, ed., Class and Personality in Society (New York: Atherton Press, 1969). (back)
19. AIPO, op. cit., p. 30. (back)
20. American Institute of Public Opinion, Views of College Students on Drug Taking," unpublished manuscript (June 1967), and William J. Bowers, "A Study of Campus Misconduct," unpublished manuscript (Boston: Northeastern University, The Russell B. Stearns Study, 1968). (back)
21. Columbia Broadcasting System News, Generations A part: A Study of the Generation Gap, conducted for CBS by Daniel Yankelovitch, Inc., 1969, p. 18. (back)
22. Bowers, op. cit., table 3. (back)
23. CBS, op. cit., p. 82. The question of whether a "no religion" stance influences one's political orientation, or vice versa, is not relevant at this point. (back)
24. Blum et al., op. cit., p. 66. (back)
25. Richard Brotman, Irving Silverman, and Frederic Suffet, Some Social Correlates of Student Drug Use," unpublished manuscript (New York Medical College, Division of Community Mental Health), p. 13. (back)
26. Blum et al., op. cit., pp. 69-70. (back)
27. CBS, op. cit., p. 62. (back)
28. AIPO, op. cit., pp. 9 12, 21, 23, 24,30. (back)
29. For two Marxian analyses of the role of cannabis in the class struggle, see Allen Krebs, "Hashish, Avant Garde and Rearguard," Streets I, no. 2 (May-June 1965): 17-22, and B. W. Sigg, Le Cannabism Chronique, Fruit du Sous-developpement et du Capitalisme (Marrakesch, 1960-Algiers, 1963). An exposition on the latter work, which is inaccessible (as is the former) may be found in Blum et al., op. cit., pp. 73-76. For another article which emphasizes the political apathy-producing effects of marijuana see Hunter Thompson, "The 'Hashbury' is the Capital of the Hippies," The New York Times Magazine, May 14, 1967, pp. 29, 123, 124. (back)
30. See L. T. Frey, "Memorandum to All Marine Aircraft Group 11 Personnel," excerpts printed in Avant Garde, no. 4 (September 1968): p. lo, and Paul G. Rogers, "Transcript of Panel Discussion, Drug Abuse Control Amendments of 1965," in International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association, Sixth Annual Conference Report (Miami Beach, Fla. September 26-October 1, 1965), pp. 20-21. (back)
31. One of the most comprehensive of the many studies exploring this relationship is Lee Rainwater, "Some Aspects of Lower Class Sexual Behavior," The Journal of Social Issues 22, no. 2 ( April 1966); 96-108. (back)
32. The sociologist and the psychiatrist are likely to see different ranges of the sexual spectrum. While a sociologist, when he thinks of someone who is defined as "sexually permissive," is likely to think of the most permissive half, third, or quarter of the entire population, the huge majority of which are clinically healthy individuals, the psychiatrist will rather think of the tiny minority who are the most sexually active ( comprising possibly 1 percent of the population ) many of whom act on the basis of motives defined by much of the medical profession as neurotic. (The promiscuous girl, for instance.) Thus, he will take a dimmer view of sexual permissiveness. In fact, many of the most sexually active individuals, such as the promiscuous girl, actually reject the validity of their behavior, and could not, therefore, be called attitudinally permissive. In any case, if we were to adopt a broader view, and look at the most permissive half, third, or quarter of the population, we would find a much higher level of self-acceptance.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 March 2011 18:45

Our valuable member Erich Goode has been with us since Tuesday, 28 December 2010.

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