Twenty years ago marijuana was considered the least dangerous drug. It’s still the least dangerous drug. And yet people across the country are still losing their jobs, their housing, their children, their freedom because they dare to associate with a plant. Even Nixon’s own Shafer Commission — officially known as the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse — concluded that “Marihuana’s relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it.”
Dependence: How difficult it is for the user to quit, the relapse rate, the percentage of people who eventually become dependent, the rating users give their own need for the substance and the degree to which the substance will be used in the face of evidence that it causes harm.
Withdrawal: Presence and severity of characteristic withdrawal symptoms.
Tolerance: How much of the substance is needed to satisfy increasing cravings for it, and the level of stable need that is eventually reached.
Reinforcement: A measure of the substance’s ability, in human and animal tests, to get users to take it again and again, and in preference to other substances.
Intoxication: Though not usually counted as a measure of addiction in itself, the level of intoxication is associated with addiction and increases the personal and social damage a substance may do.
Data Source: Dr. Jack E. Henningfield, PhD, for NIDA, Reported by: Philip J. Hilts, New York Times, Aug. 2, 1994 “Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria You Use.”