Cannabis, which is classified as Schedule I Controlled Drug under federal United States law, is still the most commonly used drug in America. The government-funded National Institute of Drug Abuse conducted a survey where they found 22.2 million people have used recreational and/or medical marijuana at least once in the past month.
BEFORE THE RISE, THERE WAS THE FALL OF MARIJUANA
Marijuana hasn’t always been so easily available and widely accepted as a form of medicine or a way to escape everyday problems (much like alcohol). Although ancestors of the human race used the cannabis plant for a litany of essential functions from clothing to medicine to food, America’s relationship with cannabis became strained in the early 1910’s.
The prohibition on marijuana started off on the state level. Prior to the ban on marijuana, cannabis was an active ingredient in many household items and over-the-counter medications. In 1913, California became the first state to increase the tax levied on the sale of anything that contained marijuana. Dead set on making the most of this newfound income, the state began criminalizing those who didn’t pay the tax. The enforcement of this new law grew state by state in the 1930’s until it became a country-wide prohibition on marijuana shortly following the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
After the damage was done in the 1930’s, the criminalization of marijuana continued on a steady journey throughout the 70’s and the 80’s. These times saw Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan rise to power. The “family values” centered campaign ran by Nixon told his fellow Americans that the “War on Drugs” was on. Reagan furthered this sentiment by championing the famous slogan, “Just Say No to Drugs.”
The aftermath of this propaganda saw increased sentencing on those who purchased and sold marijuana. Long prison sentences and heavy fines were levied against any person who infracted the law. These strict sentences also opened the door for a systematic oppression of minorities that many still feel today.
THE TABLE SLOWLY TURNS
America and cannabis continued to grow further apart until the first major chip at prohibition took place in 1996. With the vote of yes on Proposition 215, the state of California, which was the same state to first criminalize marijuana, legalized medical marijuana.
Although California made a big leap in changing the overall perception of medical marijuana, no other government joined The Golden State in recognizing cannabis as a form of therapy until 2012. It was then Massachusetts jumped on board and voted yes for medical marijuana as well.
Shortly after, Colorado and Washington made the same vote as Massachusetts, but with a twist. Following the laws put in place after lifting the prohibition on alcohol, both states also legalized recreational cannabis for persons the age of 21 and over. This opened a whole new door of revenue for the states as Colorado raked in $1.99 million dollar in taxes their first year alone and found themselves four years later topping $1 billion.
With the undeniable success cannabis has brought these states, medical marijuana has now become legal in 29 states plus D.C., and recreational cannabis has become legal in 8 states plus D.C.
CONSUMING MODERN RECREATIONAL AND MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Since marijuana was first banned to modern times where the prohibition is slowly being lifted state-by-state, how you may consume cannabis has changed considerably. This isn’t your great-grandpa’s garbage hash from yesteryear. Although smoking marijuana is the most common practice for using cannabis, it is not the be-all, end-all to get your high on.
Here are other common ways people are getting their marijuana fix both medicinally and recreationally:
Cooking Butters and Oils
Edibles (Cookies, Brownies, Protein Bars, Gummy Bears etc.)
STATISTICS ABOUT MEDICAL AND RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA
Further insight into the National Institute of Drug Abuse finds that more American males partake in marijuana than females in a gender gap that has shown a growth increase since testing first began in 2007.
Among younger users, studies found that most 8th graders had experimented with cannabis in the 1990’s. However, a gradual declined happened in the 2000’s, and has leveled off ever since. Although teenagers are reportedly less afraid of trying marijuana than they were in the past, they are still trying it less.
Teenagers were questioned in 2016 about their marijuana habits. Results found that the following percentage of age groups used marijuana:
8th Graders: 9.4% in the past year, 5.4% in the past month
10th Graders: 23.9% in the past year, 14.0% in the past month
12th Graders: 35.6% in the past year, 22.5% in the past month, with 6.0% claiming to use marijuana daily
Marijuana use has not been linked to any overdoses or deaths. However, it has led to an increase in visits to the hospital. Higher levels of THC through genetically-engineered strains or more consistent use of the plant has caused a 21% increased of hospital visits from 2009 with 456,000 trips to the ER.
This tends to happen most when marijuana edibles are consumed. Since the effects are delayed, many novice cannabis users think that the marijuana isn’t working. Therefore, they eat more. Eventually, too much THC in the body causes them to feel far higher than they can handle. Afraid that something is wrong with them, the THC-laced people head to the hospital where they are usually put on fluids and sent on their way.
MARIJUANA AND THE FUTURE
Although human ancestors used cannabis for centuries, the last few generations of the human race have not been able to legally reap the benefits of the plant. However, the tide is beginning to turn. People are becoming more educated about medical marijuana, and profits for states who have jumped onboard with marijuana legalization has skyrocketed.
Modern medical and recreational cannabis is a big business that continues to grow. As science evolves and more uses of the plant become specialized, it forces cannabis companies to find innovative ways to consume marijuana. What started as smoking can not eaten, rubbed into the skin, or vaped. The possibilities seem endless and the future seems bright in the world of cannabis.