The Atlantic

If Legal Marijuana Leads to Murder, What’s Up in the Netherlands?

A terrifying argument that cannabis causes homicides sparks a debate over whether the drug is more dangerous than its criminalization.
Source: Carlos Osorio / Reuters

In 1971’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a mescaline-infused Hunter S. Thompson and his Benzedrine-addicted attorney infiltrate a police conference, where they are amused and appalled by the naïveté of the people charged with enforcing drug laws.

Thompson captures the tone with a fictionalized bulletin, “Know Your Dope Fiend,” that warns officers:

The Dope Fiend fears nothing. He will attack, for no reason, with every weapon at his command—including yours. Beware. Any officer apprehending a suspected marijuana addict should use all necessary force immediately. One stitch in time (on him) will usually save nine on you. Good luck.

At one point, Thompson convinces an oblivious district attorney from Georgia that when Dope Fiends attack, the only recourse is to chop off their heads. “Nobody’s safe. And sure as hell not in the South. They like the warm weather.”

“Jesus God Almighty,” the officer responds. “What the hell’s goin’ on in this country?”

Today, the idea of marijuana causing a murderous rampage still sounds absurd to many users of small amounts of the drug. Drug abuse and addiction have slowly moved from being treated with disdain and punishment, and toward rehabilitation, harm reduction, and prevention. The medical establishment has moved, if glacially, toward embracing potential therapeutic properties of cannabis. There is less fear, less loathing—though still most doctors do not prescribe the drug, and most researchers are prohibited from studying it.


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