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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index


Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

National Commission on Marihuana (1972).
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.


ISBN: None

Description: First edition, 184 pages.

Note: This report is commonly known as the "Shafer Commission Report." See next entry. A Signet paperback edition is also available.

Excerpt(s): This Report "Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding" is an all-inclusive effort to present the facts as they are known today, to demythologize the controversy surrounding marihuana, and to place in proper perspective one of the most emotional and explosive issues of our times. (Raymond P. Shafer, Chairman, page iii)

Citizens concerned with health issues must consider the possibility of marihuana use leading to use of heroin, other opiates, cocaine or hallucinogens. This so-called stepping-stone theory first received widespread acceptance in 1951 as a result of testimony at Congressional hearings. ... When the voluminous testimony given at these hearings is seriously examined, no verification is found of a causal relationship between marihuana use and subsequent heroin use. (page 88)

The Churches
The nation's churches play a major role in the process by which society's norms and values are transmitted to the young. Moral education, through individual and family counseling by church personnel, is influential in the process of social control, particularly for adolescents. Consequently, the Commission sought to learn the attitudes, responses and recommendations of the clergy.

The larger societal uncertainty about the social and moral implications of marihuana use is also reflected in the attitudes of religious institutions. For example, Dr. Thomas E. Price, speaking for the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. before the Commission, referred to marihuana as a "tightly drawn moral knot." This uncertainty has led many religious groups to minimize a punitive and repressive response to marihuana use in their official statements and formal programs. Instead, they have concentrated on educational and rehabilitative programs.

Many church spokesmen have urged a reconsideration of social and legal policy. The range of their suggestions for change reflects, once again, widespread uncertainty. Some ask for some form of "adequate" punishment or supervision so as to discourage marihuana use. Others say "reform or elimination" of penalties for possession would be appropriate. And there are those who suggest legalization with some government regulation. Some church spokesmen have defended existing policy, recommending only that the law be more strictly and uniformly enforced. (page 119)

The Commission recommends only the following changes in federal law:

POSSESSION OF MARIHUANA FOR PERSONAL USE WOULD NO LONGER BE AN OFFENSE, BUT MARIHUANA POSSESSED IN PUBLIC WOULD REMAIN CONTRABAND SUBJECT TO SUMMARY SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE.

CASUAL DISTRIBUTION OF SMALL AMOUNTS OF MARIHUANA FOR NO REMUNERATION, OR INSIGNIFICANT REMUNERATION NOT INVOLVING A PROFIT WOULD NO LONGER BE AN OFFENSE. (page 152)



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