The meme of "marijuana leads to violent behavior" is weakening.
As this theme is discredited, cannabis decriminalization and legalization will surely continue to expand. Here at The Daily Bell we see this as an ongoing and even inevitable trend.
Vox is the latest media platform to take aim at this meme. The publication has posted an article entitled "Grand jury testimony suggested marijuana made Michael Brown violent. That's unlikely."
What's noteworthy is that this trend was virtually unquestioned for the past 75 years: Cannabis, when ingested, can produce numerous physical and mental problems – or so we were told.
A Forbes article published three months prior to the Vox article provides us with a little history regarding the supposed link between violence and pot.
Drug policy historians [know] that, before marijuana acquired a reputation as a "drop-out drug" that sapped people's motivation, rendering them lethargic and docile, it was feared as a "killer drug" that triggered mayhem and murder.
A 1917 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture quoted an El Paso police captain who said marijuana users "become very violent, especially when they become angry, and will attack an officer even if a gun is drawn." He added that they "seem to have no fear, [are] insensible to pain," and display "abnormal strength," so that "it will take several men to handle one man."
Under Harry Anslinger, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics got a lot of mileage out of such claims. A 1936 pamphlet from the bureau warned that "prolonged use of Marihuana frequently develops a delirious rage which sometimes leads to high crimes, such as assault and murder. Hence Marihuana has been called the 'killer drug.'…Marihuana sometimes gives man the lust to kill, unreasonably and without motive. Many cases of assault, rape, robbery, and murder are traced to the use of Marihuana."
None of this rings true, of course, and particularly not given what we understand today. The idea that cannabis incites violence is especially odd for anyone who's inhaled the plant, which is generally understood to provide a calming and even soporific effect.
But police "authorities" were apparently trying to cast Brown as someone who deserved to die. Thus, his ingestion of cannabis was twisted to provide suspicion that Brown was drugged up and violent.
Here, from the Vox article:
Michael Brown had marijuana in his system when Darren Wilson shot and killed him on August 9, according to the official and independent autopsies.
In the grand jury testimony released to the public Monday, both prosecutors and grand jurors seemed to push the idea that highly concentrated pot made Brown more likely to be aggressive — even when an unnamed medical expert insisted that it's unlikely pot could make Brown attack Wilson.
"The amount of marijuana he has could cause abnormal behavior, but usually doesn't," the unnamed expert said on November 13. "Ninety-nine out of 100 people taking marijuana aren't going to get in a fight with a police officer over it in my experience."
Immediately after, a prosecutor questioned the expert's credentials: "Can I just clarify something here, doctor? Your credentials are as a forensic pathologist, although you have a working understanding of toxicology, you are not a toxicologist, correct?" A grand juror joined in, suggesting the expert had no way of confirming that his statements are true.
But there's actually no reason to believe, based on the available research and the scientific understanding of pot, that marijuana would actually make someone more violent.
The article goes on to point out that "multiple studies have found the connection between marijuana use and aggression fades away when controlling for other variables such as alcohol and hard drug use."
This sort of scientific insight is buttressed, we learn, by a recent study on the topic from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville that rebutted previously posited linkages between domestic abuse and cannabis ingestion. "The study shows that a link between pot and aggression is, at the very least, nowhere close to established."
Another study from researchers at the University of Buffalo pointed out that cannabis users reported LESS domestic violence. This fits with the idea of cannabis as possessing a calming effect on users.
This makes sense to anyone with even a vague notion of marijuana's effects. Pot is most popularly known as a sedative that relaxes users. One of the prominent arguments against its use, in fact, is that it makes users so sedated that they're lazy and, as a result, unproductive.
The best way to discourage various kinds of drug use is to link that use – and the drug – to unpredictable violence. The Forbes article points out that this effort was made in regard to cocaine as well as cannabis.
But the unraveling of the meme of marijuana violence is proceeding apace. This is just more evidence that the days of cannabis as an illegal drug are numbered.
More enlightened days lie ahead.