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LaGuardia Committee Report on Marihuana - Table of Contents

The LaGuardia Committee Report on Marihuana

The Marihuana Cigarette

(Look for the Jack Benny Jello Hour)



The Cigarette

Smoking. When marihuana is smoked, there is, as has been stated, no such accuracy in dosage as is the case when it is ingested. The marihuana user acquires a technique or art in smoking "reefers." This involves special preparation of the cigarette and regulation of the frequency and depth of inhalations. In a group of smokers, a cigarette circulates from one to another, each in turn taking one or more puffs. The performance is a slow and deliberate one and the cigarette, held in a forked match stick, is smoked to its end.

When the smoke comes in contact with the respiratory mucous membrane, the absorption of the active principle is rapid and the effects are recognized promptly by the subject. He soon learns to distinguish the amount of smoking which will give pleasant effects from the amount which will give unpleasant ones and so regulates his dosages. Providing there are no disturbing factors, as is the case in gatherings of small friendly groups or parties in "tea-pads," the regulated smoking produces a euphoric state, which accounts for continued indulgence.


The effect from smoking marihuana cigarettes was studied in 32 subjects. Of these, 20 were classed as users, that is, prior to their arrest they had had more or less extensive experience in smoking. In the study the smoking was repeated by each subject several times, the number of cigarettes smoked within an hour ranging from one to eight.

In all of the user group the smoking produced a euphoric state with its feeling of well- being, contentment, sociability, mental and physical relaxation, which usually ended in a feeling of drowsiness. Talkativeness and laughing and the sensation of floating in the air were common occurrences. These effects were of short duration, from one to three or four hours after the smoking was concluded. In none of these subjects was there an expression of antagonism or antisocial behavior.

In the non-user group the effects were similar except that in one subject a state of mental confusion occurred and in another the main effect was a feeling of dizziness, unsteadiness, and muscular weakness. Finally one subject showed effects entirely different from the others. He smoked one cigarette and became restless, agitated, dizzy, fearful of his surroundings, afraid of death. He had three short attacks of unconsciousness. At one period he had visions of angels, and for a few minutes a euphoric state. The entire episode lasted a little over an hour, after which he went to sleep. This subject had a similar psychotic episode after taking 120 mg. of tetrahydrocannabinol. On seven other occasions he had been given the marihuana concentrate or tetrahydrocannabinol with no unusual effects.

Of the physical symptoms occurring with smoking, dryness of the mouth and throat, dizziness, and a sensation of hunger were the most common. None of these or other symptoms seemed to lessen materially the pleasurable effects.

The effect of smoking on the 7 females, 6 of whom were classed as users, corresponded to that on the male group. All showed euphoric effects. One of the subjects was nauseated and another was restless, irritable, and contrary. These effects were observed in both of the subjects when marihuana was taken by stomach. One of the users, euphoric after smoking 6 and 10 cigarettes, had a psychotic episode after 8 cc. of marihuana concentrate.

Tea-Pad Parties. (This section on "Tea-Pad Parties" was prepared by Mrs. Halpern.) In addition to the quantitative data regularly obtained from the subject during the course of the testing program, the examiner had opportunity to make diverse observations of the subject's global reactions, which threw interesting light on the general effect of the drug on the individual personality.

When the subject became "high," his inclination was to laugh, talk, sing, listen to music, or sleep, but the requirement that he solve problems, answer questions, or remember drawings created an artificial situation, tending to bring him "down" and spoil his pleasure. In order, therefore, that the influence of the drug might be observed in less formal circumstances and in a set-up more nearly like the customary "tea-pad," two groups of men were given "parties" on the last night of their hospital sojourn. The men were consulted beforehand, and the stage was set according to their desires. They requested that nothing be done until it was really dark outside. They brought the radio into the room where the smoking took place and turned it to soft dance music. Only one shaded light burned, leaving the greater part of the room shadowy. The suggestion was made that easy chairs or floor cushions be procured but the party progressed without these.

The men were allowed as many cigarettes as they wanted. When the "reefers" were passed out they crowded around with their hands outstretched like little children begging for candy. The number of cigarettes the men smoked varied, the range being from two to twelve or thirteen. There were both users and non-users in these two groups. The users of course were highly elated at the prospect of getting much free "tea," and some of the non-users also smoked with genuine enjoyment.

In the beginning the men broke up into little groups of twos and threes to do their smoking, or in some instances went off by themselves. Smoke soon filled the atmosphere and added to the general shadowy effect. After the initial smoking there was some moving about- some men laughed and joked, some became argumentative, while some just stared out of the window. The arguments never seemed to get anywhere, although they often dealt with important problems, and the illogical reasoning used was never recognized or refuted by the person to whom it was addressed. Gradually, as though attracted by some force, all restlessness and activity ceased, and the men sat in a circle about the radio.

Occasionally they whispered to one another, laughed a little, or swayed to the music, but in general they relaxed quietly in their chairs. A feeling of contentment seemed to pervade, and when one man suddenly got a "laughing jag" they were annoyed at the interruption.

In general, they gave the impression of adolescent boys doing something which was forbidden and thereby adding spice to the indulgence. Many of the adolescent personality patterns as they appear in group activities were clearly observable here. There was the eternal "wisecracker," the domineering "important" individual who tried to tell everyone what to do, the silly, giggling adolescent and the shy, withdrawn introvert. One forgot that these were actually adults with all the usual adult responsibilities. One could not help drawing the conclusion that they too had forgotten this for the time being.

Although urged to smoke more, no subject could be persuaded to take more than he knew or felt he could handle. After about an hour and half of smoking, the men were given coffee and bread and jam and the party broke up. They all went to bed and reported the next day that they had slept very well.

Another attempt at evaluating the effect of marihuana in less formal situations was made in the following manner. The examiner, one of the police officers and the subjects listened to Jack Benny on the Jello Program at 7 o'clock Sunday evening. The police officer noted the number of times the audience laughed, and the length of time the laughter lasted. The examiner checked these items for the subjects. The first time this was done without marihuana; the following week the subjects were given several "reefers" about fifteen minutes before the radio program started. The results were as follows:

Without drug, the subjects laughed 42 times as against 72 laughs in the radio audience. The total time for all laughs was 63 seconds as compared with 139 seconds for the radio audience. With cigarettes the subjects laughed 43 times as compared with 47 laughs in the audience, the total laugh time being 129 seconds as compared with 173 seconds of laughter in the audience. Without drug, the subjects laughed, roughly speaking, only half as often and as long as the audience- while under the drug they laughed almost as often and the laugh time was about 75 per cent that of the audience.

It is obvious that under marihuana the subject laughs more readily and for longer time intervals. This is probably due both to the fact that things seem funnier to him and because when under the influence of the drug he is less inhibited.

Differences Between Concentrate and Cigarette

When marihuana was ingested, it was in the form of the concentrate, containing all the active principles which are soluble in the medium used. The relative proportions of the principles present are unknown, and the effects can be assumed to give a composite picture of different actions, the dominating one being that of tetrahydrocannabinol. There is no information available concerning the principles present in marihuana smoke, and it is possible that some of those found in the concentrate have been destroyed by the heat of combustion. The effects from smoking correspond to those induced by tetrahydrocannabinol taken by stomach, so it may be assumed that this principle is present in the smoke. The rapidity with which effects occur after smoking demonstrates the quick absorption of the cannabinol from the respiratory tract and the short duration of these effects indicates its prompt excretion or detoxification. When the concentrate is taken, the absorption from the intestinal tract is slower and more prolonged. For these reasons it is not possible to make a precise comparison between the effects of the two forms of administration.

In general the subject's consciousness of unpleasant symptoms is more marked when the concentrate is taken and this may interrupt or obscure the pleasant effects. The long duration of action and the inability of the subject to stop it serve to accentuate the physical symptoms and to cause apprehension concerning what may happen.

The result of all this readily accounts for the irritability, negativism and antagonism occurring. The lessening of inhibitions is not peculiar to marihuana, for in a few subjects who were given alcohol in intoxicating doses the behavior corresponded to that induced by marihuana.

After smoking the main effect was of a euphoric type. Some dizziness and dryness of the mouth were generally present but were not pronounced enough to distract from the pleasant sensations. The condition described as "high" came on promptly and increased with the number of cigarettes smoked, but it was not alarming or definitely disagreeable, and did not give rise to antisocial behavior.

On the contrary it prompted sociability. The marihuana was under the subject's control, and once the euphoric state was present, which might come from only one cigarette, he had no inclination to increase it by more smoking. When a considerable number of cigarettes were smoked, the effect was usually one of drowsiness and fatigue.

The description of the "tea-pad parties" brings out clearly the convivial effect on the groups and the absence of any rough or antagonistic behavior.

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