The frequent use of marijuana by American youth has compelled the Committee on Drugs to explore the present methods of and recommendations for controlling marijuana.
On October 15, 1970, the Executive Board of the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed in principle a statement on marijuana which was prepared by the Massachusetts Chapter of the Academy and published in the Academy's Newsletter.1 This statement called for considering possession of marijuana as a misdemeanor rather than a felony, but it was against legalizing use of marijuana at the present time. On October 27, 1970, President Nixon signed into law the Comprehensive Drug Abuse, Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-513). This law became effective May 1, 1971; it is the Federal Government's attempt to control drug abuse by scientific and medical measures (under control of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare) and by law enforcement activities (Department of Justice). The new Federal law has stopped short of legalizing marijuana, but it does allow a judge the discrelion to withhold criminal charges for the first offense of possession.
The Massachusetts Chapter notes2 that marijuana is not a narcotic and does not produce addiction. Short-term physical effects are innocuous. However, impaired performance on simple intellectual and psychomotor tests is seen after individuals have smoked marijuana for the first time; but, such effects are not seen in regular users. There is no evidence to substantiate the common misconceptions that use of marijuana leads to crime or addiction to opiates. But, so little scientific information is available on the long-term use of marijuana that it should be considered a potentially harmful drug.