Seducer of the Innocent
THE distinction Samuel McCracken (p. 43) draws between the drugs of habit (tobacco, alcohol, heroin) and the drugs of belief (marijuana, mescaline, LSD) is useful and illuminating but I wonder whether the drugs of belief, and especially marijuana, are quite so free of habit-forming properties as is often supposed. The conventional wisdom about marijuana is that it is not addictive, and yet I myself know a fair number of people who are certainly dependent upon it. They use it every day, they would be distressed and even frantic if it suddenly became unavailable, and they would have the greatest difficulty in getting accustomed to its absence. In other words, they need it quite as much as the average heavy drinker needs a drink. Why then does everyone go on saying that marijuana is not addictive?
Well, we know why the propagandists for marijuana go on saying it. Their purpose is to persuade us that marijuana has no harmful effects. Now I must confess that-perverse creature that I am-it was this extraordinary idea which first aroused my own suspicion that marijuana might be very harmful indeed. I had always considered it mildly dangerous, not so dangerous as heroin or cocaine but more dangerous than whiskey or tobacco. Nevertheless I was perfectly prepared to believe the people who began saying a few years ago that marijuana was on the evidence less harmful to health than cigarettes or alcohol. If the partisans of marijuana had kept the argument confined to these modest limits, I doubt that I would have resisted.
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