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practiced by those at the margins of society have been absorbed into groups that represent,
if not the mainstream, then at least the growing edge, of American social life. In the less
than half a generation from 1960 to 1970, fundamental changes have taken place that will
permanently alter the shape of history. The most important of these changes have been
cultural, not technological. That man has walked the surface of the moon, as this century
lumbers into its last quarter, tells us very little about the texture of a single man's life; on
the other hand, the fact that huge segments of American society are irretrievably
disenchanted with legitimate political channels tells us a great deal about the quality of
life in this society at this particular point in time.
The increased use of illegal drugs is one of the most dramatic of social changes in this
decade. The use of marijuana in colleges in 1960 was almost unknown; in 1970, it is
commonplace. Any activity that swelled to the same degree would attract a great deal of
attention, whether it be wearing short skirts or engaging in premarital intercourse The fact
that marijuana use is subject to severe penalties makes it newsworthy indeed. That
increasingly larger subcommunities cluster about it makes marijuana even better news.
And because it powerfully ties in with dozens of other activities and institutions, study of
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The Marijuana Smokers - Chapter 1
its use has become vitally important.
Social change is the most troublesome and difficult of all areas of social life to analyze.
The task of understanding a society at one point in time is formidable; to understand it in
flux is overwhelming. Yet social scientists are expected to make predictions on demand.
Like everyone else, they are often wrong. Fads and fashions wax and wane. Today's craze
makes tomorrow's trash. Yet fluctuations are not Brownian bursts of random energy; some
of what happens from year to year has a method and a design. The river that one steps into
at one point in time is not wholly different at a later time. Many of the more trivial
features of the social life of any society have no pattern; the core features of all societies
make temporal sense.
One of the central theses of this book is that the immense increase in non-narcotic drug
use in the past decade is an organic outgrowth of a newly evolving way of life whose
precise features can now only be dimly perceived, even by its participants. Marijuana use
today is not a fad, not a craze. It is not going to be wished away, and legal measures to
eradicate it will be only partially successful. Whether we like it or not, potsmoking is here
to stay. It might be wise to try to understand it.
Questions reveal biases. What we ask reflects what we think. The phenomenon of
marijuana use is a bright, glittering jewel, each facet of which flashes a different color.
Observers stand in one spot only, and see on
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