As with many of the topics discussed in prior sections, the
evaluation of the psychic or physiological liability presented
by marijuana use depends on the standards applied to the issue.
According to the legislative history,
"There must be an assessment of the extent to which a
drug is physically addictive or psychologically habit forming,
if such information is known."(1)
The key word here is "extent."
At the time Congress created the Controlled Substances
Act the United States public was debating reconsideration
of criminal penalties for marijuana use and sales.
"The extent to which marihuana should be controlled is
a subject upon which opinions diverge widely. There are some
who not only advocate its legalization but would encourage
its use; at the other extreme there are some States which
have established the death penalty for distribution of marihuana
to minors. During the hearings, Dr. Stanley F. Yolles, who
was the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health,
submitted a chart of fable and fact concerning marihuana .
. .[Among the facts are the following statements.]
"Marihuana does not cause physical addiction, since tolerance
to its effects and symptoms on sudden withdrawals does not
occur. It can produce habituation (psychological dependence)
. . .
"We know nothing in the nature of marihuana that predisposes
to heroin abuse. . .
"Marihuana use has increased enormously in spite of the
most severely punitive laws."(2)
The Congress asked the Department of Health, Education
and Welfare for their recommendation where marijuana should
be placed in the Controlled Substances Act.
The response, by letter of 8/14/70, of the Assistant
Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs is as follows:
"Dear Mr. Chairman: In a prior communication, comments
requested by your committee on the scientific aspects of the
drug classification scheme incorporated in H.R. 18583 were
provided. This communication is concerned with the proposed
classification of marihuana.
"It is presently classed in schedule I(C) along with
its active constituents, the tetrahydrocannibinols and other
"Some question has been raised whether the use of the
plant itself produces "severe psychological or physical dependence"
as required by a schedule I or even schedule II criterion.
Since there is still a considerable void in our knowledge
of the plant and effects of the active drug contained in it,
our recommendation is that marihuana be retained within schedule
I at least until the completion of certain studies now underway
to resolve the issue. If those studies make it appropriate
for the Attorney General to change the placement of marihuana
to a different schedule, he may do so in accordance with the
authority provided under section 201 of the bill.
"We are advised by the Office of Management and Budget
that there is no objection to the presentation of this report
from the standpoint of the administration's program.
"Sincerely yours, (signed) Roger O. Egeberg, M.D."(3)