Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mellow Potheads

It is an article of faith in some circles that marijuana makes people mellow,unlike alcohol, which makes people violent.   I have never really questioned this article of faith, but I was reading
Jeffrey W. Swanson, Charles E. Holzer, Vijay K. Ganju, and Robert Tsutomo Jono, "Violence and Psychiatric Disorder in the Community: Evidence From Epidemiologic Catchment Area Surveys" in Violent Behavior & Mental Illness: A Compendium of Articles From Psychiatric Services and Hospital and Community Psychiatry (Carl C. Bell, intro., 1997).  It is a large sample population:10,059.  They broke down self-reported violent behavior by various mental illness diagnoses, and this particular table caught my eye:

The cannabis abusers are less violent than the alcohol abusers, and both are substantially less violent than "Other drug" (which probably includes meth), but relative to the other categories, there seems to be some legitimate basis for federal law that prohibits drug addicts from possessing firearms.  People with alcohol problems are not prohibited from firearms possession by federal law -- and there is probably a case for it.

UPDATE: It struck me as I was working on this law review article that because many of the respondents are "dual diagnosis," both mental illness and substance abusers, the high rates of violence that this table shows for all drug abusers includes many in both categories.  There is evidence that much of the high rate of violent crime by the mentally ill is because the combination of substance abuse and mental illness is much worse than either by itself .

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