Forty years after Becker's paper in the American Journal
of Sociology, the report prepared for OTA by confirms his
criticisms of theories based on deeply rooted motives or predispositions.
Availability, and the prior use it contributes to, explain
school aged drug use better than any other variables. The
purpose of the Controlled Substances Act is to create a closed
system of regulation and distribution that would, in part,
reduce the access of school-aged youth to all drugs. There
is nothing in the pharmacological profile of marijuana that
makes it any more of a public health threat than alcohol,
tobacco, or benzodiazepines; social science research on the
relationship between marijuana and other drug use provides
further support for this assertion.
The Hansen report also comments on the use of theory
in the research it reviewed, and as such evaluates the scientific
foundation and context of emerging research in the area of
school-age drug use.
"It is evident that well though out assumptions did play
an important role in most studies. Nearly all articles referenced
prior findings. Investigators made inferences from the literature
that were theory-like in nature. They often related in the
discussion sections of their papers what the implications
of their findings were in theory-like terms. Thus, while the
field has, for the most part, been loosely theoretical in
terms of grounded theory, a solid rationale has evolved that
has connected empirical facts with logic and philosophy. .
. there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the social
influences model represents an emergent model that represents
a body of yet-to-be-codified explanations which generally
guide the field."(53)
Hansen's conclusions address the need for the field to
move beyond theory generating to theory testing. They echo
the comments of natural science researchers about the wide
latitude for speculation which has previously dominated their
field of study.
"There are two conclusions to be drawn from this. First,
general theories and eclectic aggregations of theory have
advanced the field to date but must be used more explicitly
in driving the construction of hypotheses and experiments.
Theories should be reexamined critically and abandoned if
they do not meet the explanatory criteria needed by both epidemiologists
"Second, as a field, school-based substance abuse researchers
have been more interested in public health than science. The
concerns have been primarily practical - solving the nation's
problem. This has led to modest achievements so far. However,
before further progress can be expected, theory development
and testing must become an integral characteristic of all
research. The empirical information is plentiful and offers
a ready opportunity for theory development."(54)
These comments lend support to assertions that social
science findings used as the basis for prior scheduling decisions
were not based on rigorous scientific grounds, as the field
itself had yet to enter the theory testing and abandonment
stage of scientific development. The abandonment of old theories
in response to new natural and social science findings forms
the basis of this petition.
The research by Kandel, Zinberg, Becker, and Hansen cited
above support the assertion that public policy would best
serves the young people of this country by successful actions
to delay the age of first drug use by school age youth.