The relationship between Americans and marijuana has evolved significantly over the past few decades. As more states continue to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use, attitudes towards the plant are shifting. In this blog post, we will explore seven fascinating facts about Americans and marijuana, touching on its history, usage patterns, and public opinion.
Prohibition Began Almost a Century Ago
The history of marijuana prohibition in the United States dates back to the early 20th century. The first federal law targeting marijuana was the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which effectively criminalized the plant by imposing heavy taxes and regulations on its cultivation, sale, and use. This was fueled by sensationalist media campaigns and racial prejudice against Mexican immigrants who introduced recreational marijuana use in the United States.
Majority of Americans Now Support Legalization
Public opinion on marijuana has changed dramatically over the years. According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 68% of Americans supported marijuana legalization, representing a sharp increase from the 12% support reported in 1969. This shift in public opinion can be attributed to several factors, including increased exposure to scientific research on the medical benefits of marijuana, generational changes, and successful legalization efforts in various states.
Marijuana Use Is Widespread
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 48.2 million Americans aged 12 or older reported using marijuana in the past year. This represents about 17.5% of the population in that age group. Marijuana use is particularly prevalent among young adults, with 34.3% of those aged 18 to 25 reporting past-year use.
Medical Marijuana Has Gained Traction
The first state to legalize medical marijuana was California, with the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. As of September 2021, 36 states and four U.S. territories had legalized marijuana for medical use. Medical marijuana is used to treat a wide range of conditions, including chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and the side effects of cancer treatment.
Legalization Has Boosted the Economy
The marijuana industry has experienced rapid growth as more states legalize the plant for medical and recreational use. In 2020, legal marijuana sales in the U.S. reached $17.5 billion, representing a 46% increase from the previous year. The industry has created thousands of jobs in cultivation, retail, and ancillary services. Additionally, state and local governments have benefited from tax revenue generated by the legal marijuana market.
Racial Disparities Persist in Marijuana Arrests
Despite growing support for marijuana legalization and decriminalization, racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests continue to be a significant issue. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Black Americans are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts, even though usage rates are similar between the two groups. This disparity persists in states that have legalized marijuana, highlighting the need for continued reform and social equity programs in the industry.
Federal Law Remains Unchanged
Despite growing support for marijuana legalization at the state level, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, meaning it is considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. This federal-state conflict has created a complex legal landscape for businesses and consumers in the marijuana industry, with issues arising in areas such as banking, taxation, and employment.