Running Amok on Marijuana: Re-hashing the grain of truth in one of the world’s most persistent myths about Cannabis

by Nick Johnson, author of Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West (Oregon State University Press, 2017)


There’s no denying that the growing nationwide acceptance of cannabis in the twenty-first century has illuminated the many benefits of this plant, long-sequestered in American society:

Hemp, the non-psychoactive variety, is a multi-faceted crop with a bevy of industrial and consumer applications.

The many inter-working compounds in marijuana are an effective medicine capable of alleviating—and possibly curing—some of our most agonizing ailments.

Widespread use of marijuana has proven to be a relatively safe activity that has never produced a lethal overdose or lived up to its opponents’ worst fears.

Cannabis advocates revel in these facts; they form the backbone of the argument for legalization. But every so often a report comes out that notches a chink in activists’ rhetorical armor. In particular, several recent incidents reflect a darker, if relatively uncommon, strain in cannabis’s long history amidst human societies: Continue reading →


The Disconnects in Indian Drug Policy: Article 47, Drug Research, and Social Policy

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Contributing Editor Dr. Kawal Deep Kour. 

Policymakers in India have responded to proliferating reports of substance use disorders with great concern, opening the winter session of Parliament with a discussion of drug addiction and ways and means to reverse the trend. Even formerly radical ideas are on the table: it is likely that a Private Member’s Bill calling for the legalization of medicinal opium and cannabis will be introduced this session. This measure indicates policymakers both understand there is a problem and are willing to address it from new angles. Though the government of India and its people are currently debating the issue, drug policy reformers hope this bill will create pathways for a more progressive, less punitive set of laws. That this conversation is happening at all evinces a broader trend toward flexibility among governments across the globe, particularly regarding the therapeutic use of cannabis and the costs of the international “war on drugs.”


Prime Minister Jawaharal Nehru signing the Indian Constitution

The legal debate over legalization in India centers on Article 47 of its national constitution, ratified in 1949, which outlines one duty of the state: “to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health… and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.” While our knowledge of drugs and their injurious potential has increased a great deal due to social practices research, Indian drug policy discourse is dominated by medical and scientific rhetoric. Research from this perspective is often preoccupied with health problems associated with drug use. Focus on the discrete biological mechanisms or epidemiology of drug use is insufficient for understanding (or potentially influencing) behaviors related to intoxication and substance use disorders. Social scientists around the world believe there is an urgent need to incorporate more perspectives from anthropology, history, sociology, and cultural and gender studies, which remain secondary to laboratory sciences. (Regardless, most informed debate is limited to the professional academy. Public engagement by all of these disciplines should become the norm, not only to dispel myths about drugs and their use but also to perhaps help those struggling with related disorders.)

These competing frameworks result in confused approaches to drug policy. Article 47 is still invoked to justify and reinforce prohibition, but a careful reading suggests the foundation for a more progressive policy is already written in the directive. Recall that Article 47 requires the state to “raise the nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health.” In this spirit, the National Drugs and Psychotropics Act of 1985, the foundation of Indian drug policy, was amended most recently in 2001 to allow more scientific drug research and encourage private industry to enter the international pharmaceutical opium market. One state, Uttarakhand, read even more into the legal change and recently became the first in India to legalize the production of industrial cannabis. These steps help pull us from the mess of complete prohibition, which continues to ensnare other Indian states and countries elsewhere.

Cannabis plants in Uttarakhand (courtesy, IndiaTimes)


Prohibition is a flawed approach that ignores lessons from history. In 1976, the National Committee on Drug Abuse, chaired by Dr. C. Goplan, concluded that the elimination of drugs was a utopian idea and instead advocated for their “control and minimization.” Among the committee’s most significant recommendations was establishing a National Advisory Board on Drug Control featuring representation from academia, government, NGOs, and other interest groups. It called for long-term research programmes on different aspects of the problem to formulate evidence-based policies. This proposal never came to fruition, and forty years later progress has been incremental, but it is gratifying that Indian researchers so long ago envisioned a foundation for connecting scholarship to policy that continues to resonate globally as a viable model. It is this ongoing disconnect between research, policy, and practice that ails present drug policy in India and elsewhere. Existing national medical discourse masks the complexity and dynamism of drug use, but even new work among social scientists must overcome significant disciplinary barriers, public preconceptions, and policy inertia in order to make a meaningful impact regarding drug use or its potential problems.


“Without Hemp Columbus Would Not Have Reached America”: Barcelona’s Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum

Editor’s Note: Today’s piece is by Dr. Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, Associate Professor of History at University of Colorado Boulder and author of the book, Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History.

Having visited museums and exhibitions on intoxicants (several of which I’ve reviewed for Points) in nearly ten different countries, a few consistent patterns have emerged. Perhaps most strikingly, content tends to focus overwhelmingly on production and regulation, while all but entirely excluding issues around consumption. In national institutions such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (Washington, D.C.), the Drug Elimination Museum (Yangon, Myanmar), and the Opium Museum (Chiang Rai, Thailand), this slant reinforces other forms of anti-drug propaganda in vilifying “evil” traffickers against a “hero” state. At private institutions, where curators may enjoy greater intellectual freedom, many are nonetheless discouraged by the lack of reliable information to show the public.

The Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum of Barcelona, by contrast, is almost entirely devoted to consumption of Spain’s most recently decriminalized substance. Together with its “older sister” institution in the Netherlands (a nation long known for its liberal drug policies), this museum encourages the tolerance and even celebration of marijuana by showcasing the many important functions the drug has played for users around the world and throughout time. Continue reading →

Points Bibliography: New Perspectives on the Regulation of LSD, Cannabis, and Heroin in U.S. History

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen. They were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. For more information, contact Dr. Erlen through the above link. We are happy to point out that today’s selection features new work from Adam Rathge and Sarah Brady Siff, two longtime Points contributors!

“Too Hot to Handle”: LSD, Medical Activism, and the Spring Grove Studies (M.A. Thesis)

Author: Halsem, Lauren M.

Abstract: In the early 1950s, medical researchers across the United States began investigating the use of the hallucinogenic drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) as a facilitating agent in psychotherapy. Despite great promise, crisis struck this young field when, in the early 1960s, the federal government began tightening regulations on LSD—this being a result of public and political anxieties about increasing recreational use of the drug, as well as changing clinical trial standards. Scholars maintain that psychedelic researchers unilaterally responded to the crisis by abandoning the field, fearing that their continued association with the drug would wreak havoc on their careers and personal lives. However, a close examination of the proceedings at the Spring Grove State Hospital, located in Catonsville, Maryland, tells a different story. Drawing on archival material from Purdue’s Psychoactive Substances Research Collection, this thesis explores the Spring Grove research team’s effort to midwife a more favorable view of this defamed drug. In doing so, this analysis provides a new perspective on psychedelic researchers’ response to the LSD crisis.

Advisor: Kline, Wendy P.

Publication Year: 2016

University/Department: Purdue University, History


Cannabis Cures: American Medicine, Mexican Marijuana, and the Origins of the War on Weed, 1840-1937

Author: Rathge, Adam

Abstract: This dissertation charts the medicalization and criminalization of the drug now widely known as marijuana. Almost no one in the United States used that word, however, until it was introduced from Mexico in the early twentieth century. Prior to that, Americans often called it hemp or hashish, and generally knew it as Cannabis – the scientific name given to a genus of plants by Carl Linnaeus. That transition in terminology from cannabis to marijuana serves as the crux of this project: It begins in 1840 with the formal introduction of cannabis into American medicine and ends in 1937 with the federal prohibition of marijuana. In between, it charts nearly a century of medical discourse, social concern, and legislative restrictions surrounding the drug – demonstrating that the origins of our nation’s war on weed are much older and more complicated than previous studies have suggested. In short, marijuana prohibition in the United States was not a swift or sudden byproduct of racism and xenophobia toward Mexican immigrants, but instead, the culmination of broad evolutions in public health and drug regulation coupled with a sustained concern about the potential dangers of cannabis use dating to the mid-nineteenth century.

Advisor: Summers, Martin A.

Publication Year: 2016

University/Department: Boston College, History


Tough on Dope: Crime and Politics in California’s Drug Wars, 1946-1963

Author: Siff, Sarah Brady

Abstract: This dissertation places state lawmaking and local enforcement at the center of its analysis of the U.S. drug wars by exposing California’s efforts to reduce the traffic in illicit substances during the first two decades of the postwar era. In contrast with existing work that sees drug enforcement as federally directed, this research reveals that state and local initiatives drove attitudes and action on illegal drugs. The California drug-control experience in the postwar era shows that the drug wars were locally escalated through grassroots campaigns, overzealous law enforcement, and political jockeying to solve the problem of increasing illicit drug use. Beginning just after World War II, law enforcement agencies and the mass media in the greater Los Angeles area encouraged widespread panic over heroin and marijuana smuggled from Mexico. Federal agencies fueled this concern during congressional hearings on organized crime, which connected the “narcotics menace” to the mafia and communism, birthing local crime commissions focused on drugs and juvenile delinquency. Police Chief William H. Parker engineered a brutal narcotics enforcement regime that targeted minority neighborhoods and violated the constitutional rights of drug defendants in defiance of court rulings, suggesting Los Angeles as a western site of massive resistance. Californians interrogated the relationships between federal, state, and local enforcement arms, whose leaders often disagreed and failed to cooperate. Increasingly politicized, drug control became a major issue in the 1962 governor’s race, with Republican Richard Nixon pressing for harsh penalties and Democrat Pat Brown seeking to protect the rights of drug defendants and replace prison time with rehab. California’s critique of the federal drug-control regime was widely publicized and convinced President John F. Kennedy to reorganize federal agencies tasked with combatting drugs. California exercised an early and deep influence over the course of U.S. drug policy at midcentury by pressing the federal government to combat drug trafficking from Mexico and questioning the methods of longtime drug czar Harry J. Anslinger. This dissertation extends backward the traditional timeline of the modern U.S. drug wars and opens a discussion about the roles played by citizens, local officials, and state governments.

Advisor: Stebenne, David

Committee Members: Baker, Paula; Steigerwald, David

Publication Year: 2016

University/Department: Ohio State University, History


Points Bibliography: Cultural Contexts of Drug Use and Recovery Models

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen. They were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. For more information, contact Dr. Erlen through the above link.

Factors Related to Prescription Drug Abuse Among Young Adults in Florida

Author: Gonzalez, Mabel

Abstract: A lack of available data exists regarding environmental factors related to prescription drug abuse (PDA), which could explain the ineffectiveness of efforts to reduce PDA in Florida. Prescription drug abuse among adults older than age 18 varies with the level of education achieved, and these metrics potentially reflect socioeconomic differences. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the connections between contextual aspects of prescription opioid abuse among Florida’s middle and high school students to understand youth PDA in relation to their environments. This study consisted of a secondary analysis of existing PDA data (dependent variable) in relation to a number of independent variables, including the incidence of female-headed households, the nature of residential environment, adherence to religious precepts, and students’ ability to achieve educational goals. Incidence of female-headed households, the nature of residential environment, and adherence to religious precepts were not found to predict youth PDA. The only finding of significance was that PDA predicted lowered students’ ability to achieve educational goals ( p = .015). Data collected from this study might be used by school counselors and administrators when developing drug abuse prevention, intervention, and educational programs, thereby leading to positive social change in helping to reduce PDA among youth. Continue reading →

Deadline Tomorrow: American Society of Criminology 2018, “Institutions, Cultures and Crime”

ascAmerican Society of Criminology
Call for Papers
Annual Meeting 2018
Atlanta, GA
November 14 – 17, 2018
Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Theme: “Institutions, Cultures and Crime”

Program Co-Chairs:
Lisa Broidy, University of New Mexico
Stacy De Coster, North Carolina State University

ASC President:
Karen Heimer
University of Iowa

Thematic panels, individual paper abstracts, and author meets critics panels due:
Friday, March 9, 2018
Posters and roundtable abstracts due:
Friday, May 11, 2018

All abstracts must be submitted on-line through the ASC website at On the site, you will be asked to indicate the type of submission you wish to make. The submission choices available for the meetings include: (1) Complete Thematic Panel, (2) Individual Paper Presentation, (3) Author Meets Critics Session, (4) Poster Presentation, or (5) Roundtable Submission.
Please note that late submissions will NOT be accepted. Also, submissions that do not
conform to the guidelines will be rejected. We encourage participants to submit well in
advance of the deadline so that ASC staff may help with any submission problems while the call for papers is still open. Please note that ASC staff members respond to inquiries during normal business hours.

Complete Thematic Panels: Must include a title and abstract for the entire panel as well as titles, abstracts and author information for all papers. Each panel should contain between three and four papers and possibly one discussant. We encourage panel submissions organized by individuals, ASC Divisions, and other working groups.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Individual Paper Presentations: Submissions for a regular session presentation must include a title and abstract along with author information. Please note that these presentations are intended for individuals to discuss work that has been completed or where substantial progress has been made. Presentations about work that has yet to begin or is only in the formative stage are not appropriate here and may be more suitable for roundtable discussion (see below).

Friday, March 9, 2018

Author Meets Critics: These sessions, organized by an author or critic, consist of one author and three to four critics discussing and critiquing a recently published book relevant to the ASC (note: the book must appear in print before the submission deadline (March 9, 2018) so that reviewers can complete a proper evaluation and to ensure that ASC members have an opportunity to become familiar with the work). Submit the author’s name and title of the book and the names of the three to four persons who have agreed to comment on the book.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Poster Presentations: Submissions for poster presentations require only a title and abstract along with author information. Posters should display theoretical work or methods, data, policy analyses, or findings in a visually appealing poster format that will encourage questions and discussion about the material.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Roundtable Sessions: These sessions consist of three to six presenters discussing related topics. For roundtable submissions, you may submit either a single paper to be placed in a roundtable session or a complete roundtable session. Submissions for a roundtable must include a title and abstract along with participant information. A full session requires a session title and brief description of the session. Roundtable sessions are generally less formal than thematic paper panels. Thus, ASC provides no audio/visual equipment for these sessions.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Individuals may submit ONLY ONE FIRST AUTHOR PRESENTATION. Ordinarily
individuals may make one other appearance as either a chair or discussant on a panel.
Appearances on the Program as a co-author, a poster presenter, or a roundtable participant are unlimited. Only original papers that have not been published or presented elsewhere may be submitted to the Program Committee for presentation consideration.

The meetings are Wednesday, November 14 through Saturday, November 17. Sessions may be scheduled at any time during the meetings. ASC cannot honor personal preferences for day and time of presentations. All program participants are expected to register for the meeting. We encourage everyone to pre-register before October 1 to avoid paying a higher registration fee and the possibility of long lines at the onsite registration desk at the meeting. You can go to the ASC website at under Annual Meeting Info to register online or access a printer friendly form to fax or return by mail.

Friday, March 9, 2018 is the absolute deadline for thematic panels, regular panel
presentations, and author meets critics sessions.
Friday, May 11, 2018 is the absolute deadline for the submission of posters and
roundtable sessions.

A typical abstract will summarize, in one paragraph of 200 words or less, the major aspects of your research, including: 1) the purpose of the study and the research problem(s) you investigate; 2) the design of the study; 3) major findings of your analysis; and 4) a brief summary of your interpretations and conclusions. Although not all abstracts will conform to this format, they should all contain enough information to frame the problem and orient the conclusions.

Only LCD projectors will be available for all panel and paper presentations to enable computer based presentations. However, presenters will need to bring their own personal computers or arrange for someone on the panel to bring a personal computer.

Before creating your account and submitting an abstract for a single paper or submitting a thematic panel, please make sure that you have the following information on all authors and coauthors (discussants and chairs, if a panel): name, phone number, email address, and affiliation. This information is necessary to complete the submission.
When submitting an abstract or complete panel at the ASC submission website, you should select a single sub-area in the broader areas listed below. Please select the area and sub-area most appropriate for your presentation and only submit your abstract once. If you are submitting an abstract for a roundtable, poster session or author meets critics panel, you only need to select the broader area; no sub-area is offered. Your choice of area and sub-area (when appropriate) will be important in determining the panel for your presentation and will assist the program chairs in avoiding time conflicts for panels on similar topics.

Tips for choosing appropriate areas and sub-areas:
Review the entire list before making a selection.
Choose the most appropriate area first and then identify the sub-area that is most relevant to your paper.

After you have finished entering all required information, you will receive immediately a confirmation email indicating that your submission has been recorded. If you do not receive this confirmation, please contact ASC immediately to resolve the issue. You may call the ASC offices at 614-292-9207 or email at

Conference: “Cannabis: Global Histories”

19-20 April 2018
Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) Glasgow

University of Strathclyde

Governments in places as diverse as Uruguay, Portugal and the USA have made significant alterations to cannabis policies over the last decade, and others such as Canada have committed to change in the next few years.  Ninety years after the UK imposed its own 1928 Coca Leaves and Indian Hemp Regulations, the CSHHH Glasgow gathers historians and invites others to the University of Strathclyde to address a range of historical questions about the origins of attitudes towards, policies on and markets for cannabis substances.  After all, by understanding how countries have come to the laws and control mechanisms that they currently deploy, and the reasons that consumers and suppliers have often proven to be so resistant to them, contemporary positions and future directions can be clearer, better-informed and free of the prejudices of the past. Continue reading →