Marijuana is a psychoactive drug from the cannabis plant which is used for medicinal and recreational purposes. This commonly used drug has many names that include cannabis, herb, pot, Mary Jane, grass, weed and bud. Its use dates back to 2700.B.C among the Chinese and by 500.A.D, it had spread as far as India, Europe and North Africa. Having been introduced to the Americas by the Spanish explorers in mid 1500s, its recreational use did not start until the early 1900s.
When alcohol was banned in 1920, marijuana clubs began to pop up as people found a much needed alternative. This, however, was to be short lived as it too was banned in 1942 for being an ‘addictive narcotic’. In 1970, it was listed as a Schedule I drug. Today, medical marijuana is legal in 33 U.S states while recreational marijuana is legal in only 14 states but to varying degrees.
General statistics on marijuana use
About 55 million Americans use marijuana with California having the highest number of users. This represents 17% of the population. With the COVID-19 outbreak, marijuana sales have increased tremendously by up to 159% in California alone. The highest percentages of users (8%) are young adults between the ages of 18-25 followed by adolescents (5%) and then adults (3%).
Every day, about 3700 adolescents are initiated into marijuana and this could be the reason why 43% of college students reported using it in 2019. 1 in 6 of those who use marijuana before the age of 18 get addicted and 30% of all users ends up with some degree of marijuana use disorder. With the legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana in a number of U.S states, the economic significance is huge with the industry expected to hit $ 100 billion mark by 2030.
Consumption and addiction
The psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. Recreational marijuana usually has high levels of THC unlike medicinal marijuana which is high in CBD but less than 0.3% of THC. Most of those who use marijuana smoke it as a joint or inside a pipe or bong. It is also mixed with food and drinks like tea, ice cream, cookies, lattes and oils. An increasingly popular way of consumption is vaping and dabbing of concentrates with high levels of THC. In many situations, marijuana is taken in a company of other substances in what is called polysubstance consumption. Here, marijuana is mixed with mainly alcohol or other drugs to enhance the effects of both. This habit is largely responsible for the addiction and negative effects of marijuana which affect about 4 million American users yearly.
Although illegal for almost a century, marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco which are already legal. The legalization of marijuana will phase out black markets which will not only bring crime rates down but also ensure proper regulation, decrease teen marijuana use and boost the economy. Recreational marijuana is good but it is also harmful in several ways. The Cannabis industry is big and it will benefit people rather than harm them when it is legalized and regulated just like alcohol and tobacco.