Whether it be impartial enforcement of laws against bingo games, enactment of a much-needed personal income tax in Pennsylvania, consolidation of school districts of a public finding that the mere possession of marijuana should be decriminalized, former Gov. Raymond P. Shafer never avoids taking unpopular stands on public issues when fulfilling the dictates of his conscience, his honest convictions and his intellect. He has great courage
The report of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, known as the Shafer Commission because he serves as chairman, will not find favor in many quarters -- with President Nixon, for example, or with the many citizens whose fears and prejudices keep them from even considering the possibility that the drug is not as dangerous as they have believed. Its findings will be embraced, however, by so-called liberals both young and adult.
The Shafer Commission report seems to be saying, in rather low key, that limited use of marijuana does not appear to be harmful, although not all the needed clinical evidence is yet available. for that reason, unduly harsh punishment for the mere possession of the drug, its use in private, or even the distribution of it in small quantities and without profit should be eased or removed.
But the report also seems to be saying that marijuana is not to be trifled with, the possibility of danger from prolonged and intensive use is not adequately known yet. Therefore, its use should be discouraged, and those who grow it and distribute it for gain should be prosecuted. It must be concluded that although marijuana is not harmless, its known ill effects have been exaggerated, creating unwarranted fear and apprehension.
The Shafer Commission report, controversial as it undoubtedly will be, goes a long way toward clearing the air about marijuana, toward giving the public authoritative and factual information. It is the product of thorough and painstaking investigation and research, done with an unprejudiced and open mind.
Its yes-and-no conclusions, however, appear to result in some inconsistencies. for example, it proposes that persons giving marijuana to friends or selling it for insignificant amounts would not be guilty of crimes under either federal or state law. It also proposes that state statutes still make it a felony to cultivate, sell or distribute marijuana for profit, or to possess it with intent to sell it. Obviously, no one is going to cultivate marijuana or otherwise acquire it in large amounts without hope of profit. So, at some point a potential user would have to acquire the stuff from someone violating the law, and might have to violate it himself, although his casual use of the drug might not in itself be illegal. the legal user would be encouraging the illegal distributor.
Nevertheless, the report reflects great courage and intellectual openmindedness on the part of former Gov. Shafer and members of the commission. It is to be hoped that the public will give it the unprejudiced and openminded consideration it deserves. It should not be utilized to support or seemingly vindicate preconceived fears, myths or practices at either end of the spectrum. Neither those who use the drug nor those who violently condemn its use have won a clear victory.
National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse
Shafer home page