Marijuana Smoking Up Among U.S. Adults

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A new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry revealed some interesting information about the American perception regarding the risks involved in marijuana smoking. The study evaluated the behavior and perspectives of 596,500 adults between 2002 and 2014. The data was taken from surveys conducted by the US National Surveys on Drug Use and Health that looked at a cross section of adults across the country. According to the researchers’ findings, marijuana smoking increased from 10.4% to 13.3% over those years. This means 10 million more people have been engaged in marijuana smoking and 4 million more are smoking every day or almost every day, since the study began in 2002.

The Changing Perception of Marijuana Smoking

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American adults are smoking marijuana more than ever before.

The most significant finding is that less people perceive it as causing any harm. The number of people who see it as causing harm dropped from 50.4% to 33.3%. According to the study, marijuana is still associated with low income, unemployment, criminal behavior and lower life satisfaction, although marijuana has never been shown to cause any of these things.

The Findings on Cannabis and Mental Health

The main objective of the study was to see if the increase in legalization and numbers of people smoking has created an increase in mental health issues that need to be addressed. The study shows no increase in mental health issues, even though the number of smokers has increased. The biggest hike in numbers seems to have occurred in 2007. At that time, 12 states had legalized medical marijuana. With the initiation of many new smokers, seeking medical relief, it is likely that perceptions changed once the public realized it was causing no problems. Cannabis has become well known for bringing about physical, mental and emotional relief for those who use it.

The researchers conclude that more education is needed so that people understand that there is no risk, stating that “the associations between increases in marijuana use and decreases in perceiving great risk of harm from smoking marijuana suggest the need for education regarding the risk of smoking marijuana and prevention messages.”

Two Decades of Marijuana Progress

The last 20 years have seen a lot of progress towards ending marijuana prohibition. California’s legalization of medical marijuana in 1996 was the beginning of a trend that now has led to the legalization of medical marijuana in 25 states and recreational marijuana legal in 4 states and D.C. with many more voting on legalization issues in this November ballot.

A Dark History of Prohibition

Marijuana became illegal through the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. After the Mexican revolution at the turn of the century, migrants from Mexico were making homes for themselves in Texas and Louisiana. They brought with them new customs, food and a foreign language that made residents nervous. A few decades prior, the U.S. had some success lowering Chinese migration by making opium illegal, thus giving the government a way to arrest, detain and deport immigrants. Marijuana was used in the same way against Mexicans. At the time, ‘cannabis’ was the term used in the U.S. and the plant was used in almost all medicine available at that time. The Mexicans used the term ‘marihuana’ and the language difference was used to scare the general public away from the plant, with most people not realizing they already had ‘marijuana’ in their medicine cabinets.

Propaganda around the plant included telling the public that it made men of color violent and want to elicit sex with white women. Other completely preposterous pieces of media propaganda was also used to scare the public into prohibition. Alcohol prohibition had just ended and the prohibition departments would have no more jobs without a new villainous substance to go after.

The Rise of the Controlled Substances Act

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Nixon signing the Controlled Substances Act into effect despite the advice of the Schafer Commission. 

The Act that made marijuana illegal was considered unconstitutional and replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in the ‘70s, which included creating classifications for illicit substances. Marijuana was given a Schedule I as a placeholder while evaluations on the plant were done. The Schafer Commission came back to Nixon with their recommendations which stated that marijuana should not be a Schedule I drug and probably shouldn’t even be considered an illicit substance at all. Nixon ignored the recommendation and kept it as a Schedule I drug, considered to be one of the most dangerous of all the drugs.

The last 20 years have seen a lot of progress towards ending marijuana prohibition. California’s legalization of medical marijuana in 1996 was the beginning of a trend that now has led to the legalization of medical marijuana in 25 states and recreational marijuana legal in 4 states and D.C. with many more voting on legalization issues in this November ballot. With more and more states legalizing now and public opinion changing so much, it would seem that the end of prohibition is just around the corner.

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