Marijuana is legal to some extent in 30 states. The majority of these laws allow use for medicinal purposes only. Recreationally, pot is legal for adults ages 21 and older in Washington, Nevada, California, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, Alaska, Washington, Massachusetts and Washington D.C. One could justly assume, then, the reason more Americans are willing to smoke pot today is because the law allows it. But assumptions are rarely correct.
[New research published in the journal Addiction concludes that medical and recreational marijuana law haven’t impacted America’s growing popularity that much. The study notes that while marijuana use is increaing, this growth is due to lax attitudes, not laws. “Marijuana policy liberalization over the past 20 years has certainly been associated with increased marijuana use,” the study begins. “However, policy changes appear to have occurred in response to changing attitudes within states and to have effects on attitudes and behaviors more generally in the U.S.”
To reach the result, researchers analyzed data from National Alcohol Surveys and paired the results with marijuana use. They then compared these results against changes in state laws and found the rise in cannabis use was primarily influenced by societal factors.
Authors identify the ascending approval rate of marijuana use–Pew research revealed 53 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization medically and recreationally–as one of the more prevalent factors. “The steep rise in marijuana use in the United States since 2005 occurred across the population and is attributable to general period effects not specifically linked to the liberalization of marijuana policies in some states,” the study notes.
Researchers note respondents in earlier surveys might have been more likely to lie about using the drug as pot was then illegal. Then again, this would only serve to support the conclusion that ceasing prohibition doesn’t increase use.
Recently, we reported that marijuana-legal states were steadfast on strengthening efforts toward thwarting black market sales as marijuana users were still buying product from illegal sources. Meaning even with marijuana legalized, we still prefer to purchase it illegally. Why? Taxes atop an already inflated price seems to be the answer. Young people aren’t interested, either. A recent federal survey found that teen cannabis consumption is at its lowest level since 1994, despite the fact that more states are adjusting their marijuana laws.
So to people who thought legalization would encourage more people to use, you’re wrong. The proof is right here. What’s actually happening is society’s changing and our attitudes toward the drug have, like humankind, evolved.