Report urges legal marijuana

A National Academy of Sciences panel recommended repeal of criminal penalties for personal marijuana use, but the academy's president rejected the conclusion, it was disclosed Thursday.

The recommendation came in a report by the academy's National Research Council. The report, submitted to the National Institute on Drug Abuse last month, reached conclusions similar to those in a 1972 report by the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. Since then, 11 states have repealed penalties for possession of small amounts and private use of marijuana. An estimated 55 million Americans have tried marijuana.

The report said that the current prohibition on both use and sale falls short of its goal - prevention of use - and that use does not soar when it is decriminalized. It concluded that a policy of partial prohibition is preferable to one of complete prohibition of supply and use.

But Frank Press, the academy president, rejected the report's conclusions and quoted a recent report by the academy's Institute of Medicine saying marijuana justifies ''serious national concern.'' He said he is concerned the public will think the drug has now been pronounced safe.

''My own view is that the data available to the committee were insufficient to justify on scientific or analytical grounds changes in the current policies dealing with the use of marijuana,'' Mr. Press said in a letter transmitting the report to the drug-abuse institute.

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