The 1960s are often held in a nostalgic regard as an era of rampant drug use with few consequences. Free love, antiwar protests, Woodstock and hippies even though the facts get in the way of this account. A 1969 Gallop Poll revealed that only 22 percent of college students had smoked marijuana. It was not until December of 1970 the number hit a something closer to the perception of rampant drug use when 42 percent of college student reported experimenting with the drug.
Many of the memories associated with 1960s America actually occurred in the 1970s. By the end of the 70s the U.S. National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse estimated that marijuana was the third most common drug after alcohol and nicotine smoked in cigarettes. Despite vigorous attempts to portray marijuana as a dangerous gateway drug its use only spread after laws were passed to ban it, and the federal government declared a “War on Drugs”. President Richard Nixon first used the term in 1971. By the early 1980s polls showed that nearly 60 percent of high school seniors had tried marijuana at least once. Compared to 22 percent of college students in 1969 the results cast serious doubts on the effectiveness of bans on marijuana use.
Studies have shown that marijuana produces minimal physical dependency and that the drug has few if any withdrawal symptoms. While the debate seems to break along political lines it is obvious that marijuana dependency is less dramatic that addiction to cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines. Due to the inconclusive nature of studies on marijuana addiction or the negative effects of using, the debate has become politicized.
Some groups have monetary ties to keeping marijuana illegal, while others hope to reap the economic benefits of legalization. Part of the difficulty in treating drug addiction is that finding scientific solutions is blocked by the political process.