In the classic 1936 cult film Reefer Madness, well-adjusted high school students who try marijuana suddenly sink into a life of addiction, promiscuity, aggression, academic failure, homicide and mental illness. The movie concludes with the ominous warning that “The dread marijuana may be reaching forth next for your son or daughter ... or yours ... or YOURS!” Newspaper headlines of the day often reflected a similar sentiment. On February 10, 1938, a headline in the Beloit (Wisc.) Daily News read, “Authorities Warn against Spread of Marijuana Habit—Insanity, Degeneracy and Violence Follow Use of Weed.”
Such a position on pot seems extreme. Yet just as people have since cast aside the notion that marijuana use inevitably culminates in the destruction of the mind, so have they also begun to question the concept that it is benign. In particular, some evidence suggests that marijuana can, in some cases, be addictive and that it may present other health problems as well, particularly in heavy users. That said, most people suffer no ill effects from a single or occasional use of the drug.
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