Marijuana’s Popularity Among US Adults Continues to Grow. Here’s Why

Marijuana’s popularity among American adults is on the rise — and use of the recreational drug is expected to continue to increase, according to several surveys.

The increase in popularity, along with more permissive attitudes toward marijuana use, may be due in part to its changing legalization status in many parts of the country, experts say.

Forty-five percent of adults in the U.S. have used marijuana at least once in their lives, according to a Gallup poll released in mid-July — the all-time highest percentage in the 48-year history of Gallup asking Americans this question.

Trying marijuana at least once as an adult isn’t the same as being a user of the drug, but the percentage of current smokers is on the rise as well: The same Gallup poll revealed that 12 percent of U.S. adults — 1 in 8 — said they use marijuana, up from 7 percent in 2013.

Meanwhile, data from two large national surveys done by the federal government also finds increasing rates of marijuana use among adults. (Gallup does its poll by telephone interviews, while federal surveys conduct face-to-face interviews. An in-person interview could possibly influence results because marijuana is still illegal in most states and people may be hesitant to admit they use it.)

One of these large surveys, published in 2015 in JAMA Psychiatry, found that the prevalence of marijuana use in the United States more than doubled over a decade. After interviewing about 36,000 people, ages 18 and older, the researchers found that the percentage of adults who reported using marijuana in the past year jumped from 4.1 percent in 2001–2002 to 9.5 percent in 2012-2013.

The data showed that marijuana use was increasing in males and females in many age groups, although it was increasing a little faster in young adults, ages 18 to 29, and in males, said Deborah Hasin, one of the study authors and a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. The rates of use were also increasing among middle-age and older adults, she said.

But the trends in increasing use appear to be limited to adults: Marijuana use is not increasing among teenagers, Hasin said. Two major studies have shown that marijuana use has been relatively stable in adolescents over the last few years, she said.

The top four reasons people give for using marijuana are to relax, to relieve pain, to have fun and to help them be social, according to a survey by Yahoo News/Marist College done in March.Unwinding and fitting in may explain why many people decide to smoke pot, but what are some reasons for its rising popularity among adults?

One explanation is the growing perception that marijuana has few risks, Hasin told Live Science. In the 1960s and ’70s, scare tactics were used to discourage young people from smoking pot, and there was a perception that marijuana could lead to a person becoming addicted to heroin, she said.

These days, teens and adults increasingly see marijuana as a natural substance that’s basically safe, Hasin said. However, one of the known risks of immediate use of the drug is impaired driving ability, she said.

Many people probably consider smoking marijuana as less likely to lead to drug dependence than using other illegal substances. But many of the studies that concluded marijuana may be less addictive than other drugs were done 25 years ago when marijuana was less potent than it is now, Hasin said.

And not only are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, higher now than in the past, but people may be using these more potent forms in different ways, such as vaping or consuming them as edibles. Researchers don’t truly know yet how higherpotencies and newer delivery methods will affect marijuana use disorders, Hasin said.

The changing legal status of marijuana in many states may also be responsible for shifting attitudes toward its use and perceived dangers. Twenty-nine states have passed medical marijuana laws, and voters in eight states have approved limited recreational use in adults, Hasin said.

There is some evidence from states that have passed medical marijuana laws that shows faster increases in overall marijuana use in adults, compared with states without medical marijuana laws, Hasin said.

Data from California and Colorado, two early adopters of medical marijuana laws, has shown that increased availability of marijuana has led to more overall acceptability of marijuana use, in general, as well increasing perceptions of the drug’s safety, Hasin said. All of these factors seem to increase recreational use of marijuana by adults within these two states, she said.

Marijuana’s popularity can also be explained by a simpler factor: Many people find the drug enjoyable to use.

When a person gets high, marijuana has the same effect on the release of the brain chemical dopamine as other psychoactive substances, such as cocaine or heroin, said Francesca Filbey, the director of Cognitive Neuroscience Research in Addictive Disorders at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas.

THC binds to cannabinoid receptors, which are found all over the brain, Filbey told Live Science. When THC binds to the receptors, it stimulates the increased release of dopamine, which activates the brain’s reward system and contributes to marijuana’s pleasurable effects, she said.

But marijuana doesn’t only affect areas of the brain involved in feeling good. THC can also attach to receptors in the brain that play a role in modulating other types of behavior, Filbey said. It works like volume control, “turning down” areas of the brain that influence memory, concentration, decision-making, movement and pain perception, she said.

Originally published on Live Science.

Florida Adds 1000 Medical Marijuana Patients Since June

Florida has seen a 60 percent surge in the number of patients being treated with medical marijuana since June.

Florida had 16,760 patients on June 7, according to state reports. Florida added more than 10,000 patients by July 27, for a total of 26,978 on the books –  that’s a 60 percent increase.

At the same time, there’s also been a spike in the number of doctors authorized to recommend cannabis. During that same time, more than 130 new doctors have signed up to be able to recommend marijuana. Florida now has about 950 doctors who can recommend medical marijuana to treat conditions ranging from HIV-AIDS to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Seven companies are now authorized to grow, process and sell medical marijuana, but only four of them have retail storefronts. Two of them only offer delivery, and the seventh has gotten the permission to grow, but hasn’t processed a crop yet.

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a broader medical marijuana program last election. Its implementation, though, has been rocky. Lawmakers had to come back for a special session to pass a cannabis bill, and Orlando attorney John Morgan is suing because it doesn’t allow for smoking.

New Bill Aims to Legalize Marijuana on a Federal Level

A bill, introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker on Tuesday, would declassify marijuana as a controlled substance, making it legal on a federal level, nationwide.

The bill, titled the Marijuana Justice Act, would remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I substances, where it currently resides along with drugs like heroin and peyote. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Schedule I drugs have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

The bill would also provide groundwork for expunging and resentencing federal marijuana offenses, prevent deportations for marijuana charges, and cut federal funding towards law enforcement and prison infrastructure for states with disproportionate marijuana arrest and incarceration rates.

29 states, as well as Washington, D.C., have already legalized medicinal marijuana. Recreational pot smoking is also legal in eight states and Washington, D.C.

Booker debuted the bill via a livestream on his official Facebook page, where he outlined its contents and fielded questions from commenters. Booker stressed the importance of the bill given the targeting of minorities, poor people, veterans and the mentally ill in marijuana policing and the “wildly disproportionate affect” that enforcement has on those vulnerable communities.

Booker has long been a vocal opponent of the War on Drugs, and noted disparities in drug policing in his book, United, where he wrote that “The war on drugs has turned out to be a war on PEOPLE— and far too often a war on people of color and the poor.”

Numbers confirm that the current enforcement of marijuana policy is rife with racial bias. Black Americans are 3.7 times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts, according to analysis the ACLU, and the imprisonment rate for black Americans for drug-related charges is almost six times that of white Americans.

Marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug has also been a strong prohibitive factor in studying its medicinal effects, despite evidence that it can be effective in the treatment of certain cancers, neurological ailments like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, and pain management. Removing marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs would open up more opportunities for scientists to find more medical uses for marijuana.

The federal legalization of medical marijuana could also prove critical in the American opioid epidemic. The Trump-formed Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued a report on Monday that called for the president to “declare a state of emergency” based on the severity of opioid addiction nationwide. Multiple studies have demonstrated a correlation between marijuana legalization and a decrease in opioid abuse and overdose.

The Marijuana Justice Act’s path to legalization is not a direct one. Attorney General and Noted Racist Jeff Sessions has gone on record about his desire to crack down on marijuana and expand federal control over state marijuana laws. During the livestream, Booker called Sessions’s opposition to marijuana legalization “outrageous and unacceptable.”

Americans are keener on legal weed than ever before. According to a CBS News poll released in April, 61% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana.

Booker said that at the time of the livestream, the bill currently lacked other sponsors, and urged those watching to contact their representatives to ask them to support the bill.

“I don’t think folks understand that we are all implicated in this broken system,” Booker said. “Your tax dollars are being drained by this war on marijuana.”

The Marijuana Industry Has the American Workforce Blazing

If you’ve stalled out in your current line of work, new data on the burgeoning American marijuana industry suggests that creating or selling weed products might be a lucrative new field for you. In fact, legal weed workers already outnumber dental hygienists, bakers, and massage therapists in North America.

Data compiled in the Marijuana Business Factbook, which analyzes the business opportunities in cannabis in Canada and the United States, proves just how powerful the weed industry has become since 2009. In 2016, four states legalized recreational marijuana and four more approved certain measures allowing marijuana to be sold medicinally. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia are either working on passing legislation or have passed legislation to loosen the legal grip on marijuana in some form.

The Factbook analyzes California’s economy as it pertains to legalized marijuana in great detail, and, based on the existing data, makes the prediction that the state will eventually bring in $4.5 billion and $5 billion in annual retail sales — that’s more than the entire nation made on marijuana in 2016.

On the negative side of things, the Factbook points out that most marijuana businesses are becoming apprehensive of what federal regulations will do to their sales. Things are getting especially hairy for growers who can’t keep up with their local dispensaries’ demand for more product. As the Factbook reads, “Some cultivators that shelled out for expensive indoor facilities are finding that costs of production now exceed the market price per pound of cannabis.” The wonky relationship between distributors and growers has lengthened the amount of time an average marijuana company needs to start making a profit; in early 2016, almost 70% of the surveyed companies selling or distributing weed-related products told researchers they had made it “into the black” in under a year. That same answer was only given by 55% of companies in the latest report, which means marijuana is still a viable line of work, though it’s likely to get harder and harder to join the workforce as product availability expands.

The bottom line for many, though, is that the marijuana industry has created somewhere between 165,000 and 230,000 full- and part-time jobs since 2009. As Entrepeneur puts it, those jobs include “working at cannabis retail stores, growing facilities, marijuana-infused product companies, testing labs and ancillary businesses such as transportation and security.” If you’re looking for a professional change-up, you may want to find a way into professional weed distribution, but your window of opportunity is closing.

Marijuana May Heal Migraines Better Than Prescription Drugs

If the pretzel logic of the federal government’s illogical stance on medical marijuana is giving you a migraine, here is a remedy: Medical marijuana.

Yet another study, this one conducted by Italian researchers and published in June, suggests that cannabis may be more effective at reducing migraine pain than pharmaceutical drugs.

The research found that patients suffering from “cluster headaches” only found relief if the symptoms began in childhood.

“We were able to demonstrate that cannabinoids are an alternative to established treatments in migraine prevention,” wrote Dr. Maria Nicolodi, the study’s lead author. “That said, they are only suited for use in the acute treatment of cluster headaches in patients with a history of migraine from childhood on.”

According to clinical trial data presented at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology, daily marijuana consumption can lead to a reduction in migraine headache frequency.

The study examined the medicinal impact of oral cannabinoid treatments compared to amitriptyline, a pharmaceutical commonly prescribed for migraines. Patients treated daily with a 200 mg dose of a combination of THC and CBD achieved a 40 percent reduction in migraine frequency – a result that was similar to the efficacy of amitriptyline therapy.

Subjects also reported that cannabinoid therapy significantly reduced acute migraine pain, but only when taken at doses above 100 mg.

More than 5 million Americans experience migraines at least once a month.

This is not the first time a study found a connection to cannabis and reduced migraine symptoms.

study from the University of Colorado, published earlier this year, showed that the frequency of migraines in patients who used cannabis dropped from 10.4 per month to 4.6.

This study indicated that smoked marijuana, which hits the bloodstream almost instantly, was best for treating acute migraines. Edibles, which take much longer to metabolize, helped prevent headaches.

John Morgan Sues Florida Because You’re Supposed To Smoke Medical Marijuana

Orlando attorney and medical marijuana amendment backer John Morgan has sued the state of Florida to allow suffering patients to smoke medical marijuana.

Morgan filed the suit in Leon County Circuit Court Thursday morning.

In the lawsuit, Morgan asks Florida to declare the new medical marijuana law unenforceable because it lacks one key way for patients to ingest the drug: by smoking it.

“Inhalation is a medically effective and efficient way to deliver Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and other cannabinoids, to the bloodstream,” wrote Morgan.

Former Democratic House Speaker and attorney Jon Mills joined in the suit as well, which Morgan had been talking about filing for months should the state legislature not allow medical marijuana in its latest proposal to regulate the state’s new, booming industry.

The current proposal to regulate medical marijuana allows patients to ingest the drug via edibles, oils or vaping, but prohibits smoking the drug — an issue that has pro-medical marijuana supporters up in arms.

Morgan says state lawmakers didn’t quite understand the intent of Amendment 2, which he largely crafted with other pro-medical marijuana advocates.

State lawmakers, the suit alleges, have crafted their own definition of the constitutionally defined term “medical use” to exclude smoking — and that’s a big problem.

“By redefining the constitutionally defined term ‘medical use’ to exclude smoking, the Legislature substitutes its medical judgment for that of ‘a licensed Florida physician’ and is in direct conflict with the specifically articulated Constitutional process,” Morgan wrote.

Amendment 2, which passed with 71 percent of the vote last November, prohibits the smoking of medical marijuana in public places.

Morgan says the underlying implication is that medical cannabis can be smoked in private.

“In the amendment, it is very, very clear that it says smoking is not allowed in public and that’s the only place smoking can be addressed by the Legislature,” Morgan said in a press conference Thursday morning. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out if smoking isn’t allowed in public, it must be allowed in private.”

Critics have slammed the idea of smokeable medical marijuana as just another way to legalize recreational marijuana and questioned whether it was a medically viable way to ingest the drug.

“There’s a reason why every single major medical association opposes the use of the raw, smoked form of marijuana as medicine: smoke is not a reliable delivery system, it’s impossible to measure dosage, and it contains hundreds of other chemical compounds that may do more harm than good,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, President of nonprofit medical marijuana organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

New medical marijuana regulations are still fresh on the books in Florida. Just two weeks ago, Gov. Rick Scott tacked his signature onto a bill regulating Florida’s medical marijuana industry into law.

If the Leon County court agrees with Morgan, though, it will be up to the Florida Department of Health to regulate the drug.

“They’re making it a health issue like someone in chemotherapy is taking a few tokes,” Morgan told Sunshine State News. “It’s a bunch of people who don’t understand what they don’t understand. When you’re dying the last thing you care about is the smoke from marijuana.”

Morgan said the real threat of medical marijuana came to the opioid industry, which has boomed in recent years as the nation has fallen into an addiction crisis with high instances of opioid abuse.

“Every person using medical marijuana is a person who will not go to CVS…and buy their opioids which hook us, kill us and destroy our families,” he said.

The firebrand attorney wasted no time laying into House Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, who sponsored the latest bill to regulate the medical marijuana industry in Florida — but banned smoking in the bill.

“If Ray Rodrigues is so concerned about smoking, why doesn’t he tax cigarettes $5 a pack?” Morgan asked. All of a sudden Ray Rodrigues is a doctor in the state of Florida? No!”

To Morgan, Thursday was just another step on the already long and winding road to legalize medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

“I started this thing in 2014 and this is the last promise I made to the people of Florida,” he said. “Promises made are promises kept.”

Why The Trump Administration’s Weed War Will Go Up In Smoke

The Trump administration has made it clear that recreational marijuana is on their no-no list. Press Secretary Sean Spicer blamed it for the opioid epidemic, and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions has claimed that it “causes more violence than you might expect.” But the Trump administration’s bluster obscures a fairly serious legal problem for their agenda. That is, the states have already spoken, and besides that, the motives behind this effort seem like they may be more about publicity than real-life policy.

There’s also something else at work here: Amid these vocal assaults on the state of legal weed, the Trump administration said it wasn’t interested in pursuing medical marijuana, and privately, Jeff Sessions reportedly informed Republican senators that there will be no substantial policy change on the matter. Why all the bark without the bite? Because reinstating marijuana’s full illegality is, effectively, impossible.

The Limits Of Power

As Attorney General, Jeff Sessions could certainly enforce federal laws more strictly, but it would be a vast undertaking. Currently, only five states completely outlaw marijuana: Idaho, South Dakota, Kansas, Indiana and West Virginia. In eight states, and the District of Columbia — much to the frustration of conservatives — weed has been legalized completely. And in thirteen states, it has been both decriminalized and allowed for medical use. The rest of the states in the union tend to fall into various categories; some, like Texas, have only legalized marijuana with non-psychoactive properties, while others have only legalized it for medical use.

Most importantly, many of these states did so by popular vote, even in Republican strongholds. Arkansas, which went to Trump in the 2016 election, also voted to legalize medical marijuana with 53% of the vote. In fact, marijuana legalization had a banner 2016 for supporters of the cause.

All of this creates a problem if the Trump administration really wants to enforce federal marijuana laws, because that’ll mean it has to devote significant resources to enforcing a federal law that states don’t care about.

In fact, states that legalized pot are seeing a windfall that others are eager to emulate. Colorado, which heavily taxes marijuana, collected nearly $200 million in taxes from recreational pot use. Oregon expected a modest $10 million in tax revenue: Instead, it collected $60 million. Will the governors from these states — who rely on that tax revenue to fund their budgets — quietly shrug if that fight is brought to them?

Adding to the problem is that the Trump administration’s justification for cracking down on marijuana simply isn’t good policy, statistically or scientifically.

There Is No “There” There

Any link, positive or negative, between legalized marijuana and violent crime is questionable at best. Correlation is not causation, so while, say, Washington state saw violent crime drop from 2011 to 2014, that can’t be automatically chalked up to legalization. Still, the anti-legalization crowd has been caught cherry-picking evidence more than once. One common claim is legalized marijuana drove up Pueblo, CO’s murder rate, but the authorities in Pueblo point out that it’s opioids and black tar heroin causing the problem.

And the idea that marijuana is a “gateway drug” (which Spicer has advanced) similarly fails to hold up when you look at the available data. While a little less than half of all Americans have tried marijuana, only 15% try cocaine and 2% use heroin. Besides, it’s worth asking why marijuana is the only “gateway drug” that we hear about, especially when you consider that alcoholism is a well-known disease that costs the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars. The beer, wine, and liquor industry spent approximately $27 million on lobbying in 2016, and there are allegations that they are, at least partially, behind anti-legalization initiatives, so perhaps the weed industry just needs better lobbyists.

The idea that marijuana could be causing the opioid crisis is questionable at best, especially as doctors themselves think opioids are simply a poorly considered bandage slapped over a much larger, festering problem. A University of Michigan overview of chronic pain treatment is critical of both opioids and marijuana, but notes the problem with opioids is how they’re prescribed:

Unfortunately, it is far faster and easier to give a patient an opioid than to work through the complex issues often present in chronic pain patients. As physicians begin to realize the problems with prescribing opioids for individuals with chronic pain, an increasingly common route to opioid addiction and death is the initial prescription of opioids for acute pain after a surgical or dental procedure or ER visit.

While it’s not clear how feasible marijuana itself is as a treatment for chronic pain, drugs derived from it have had enough success that further medical research is needed. But being open to that possibility and eliminating the stigma that seems inexorably linked to marijuana needs to happen in conjunction with any advance, or else what’s the point?

Old Views And A New Round Of Rhetoric

As a rule of thumb, the older a voter is, the more likely they are to vote Republican, and the gap between them and even the Baby Boomers is enormous on marijuana. While support has risen drastically in the last few years, still only one-third of our oldest voters are for marijuana legalization, according to Pew’s research. Oddly, white men, the most reliable Trump voter base, tended towards legalizing marijuana according to that same study; marijuana had the least support in the Hispanic community in the poll.

There is also the uncomfortable reality that marijuana laws are used as a weapon on non-white communities. The ACLU has found non-whites are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession and decriminalization has done nothing to change these numbers. That brings up a whole host of concerns, but specifically, Trump’s deportation campaign depends heavily on deporting anybody arrested on even the smallest crime, so the administration may want to keep these laws on the books to maintain that legal veneer.

With all that said, and despite Spicer and Sessions’ public remarks, in the end, this is unlikely to be much of a priority for the Trump administration. While it may appeal to a subset of voters, long-term, laws tend to snowball on a state by state basis, and marijuana legalization is too big and carroes too much momentum for any President to stop.

Medical Marijuana Could Help Prevent Brain Diseases

We already know that smoking a blunt (or you know, using small doses of cannabinoids under medical supervision) can help everything from cancer pain, PTSD, stress and anxiety. Now new research is showing that the drug could potentially be used to ward off certain brain diseases.

Researchers have found that certain cannabinoid compounds found in weed — namely THC and CBD — can help treat and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

They do this by reducing the formation of plaques in the brain that cause inflammation — which is thought to be one of the leading causes of degenerative brain diseases. Cannabis can also help manage symptoms, you can use THC to fall asleep and stay asleep, and CBD to help decrease the involuntary movements caused by Parkinson’s.

However, all of these finding are preliminary, mainly coming from anecdotal evidence given by patients and through animal studies.  We won’t know the full benefits until a clinical trial is conducted, so don’t take this as a reason to light up just yet.

Florida Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Implementing Bill

The Florida Legislature appears close passing medical marijuana legislation.

The Senate approved a bill enacting the state’s constitutional amendment expanding the use of medical marijuana by a 28-8 vote on Friday as part of the special session. The bill must pass the House before it can go to Gov. Rick Scott.

The bill collapsed on the final day of the regular session last month over disagreements about caps on retail dispensaries and if cannabis should be taxed. Both chambers reached agreement on Wednesday that there would be a cap of 25 dispensaries per treatment center and that there wouldn’t be a sales tax.

The legislation allows patients who suffer chronic pain related to one of 10 qualifying conditions to receive either low-THC cannabis or full strength medical marijuana..

Dick… Ahem, ‘Rick’ Scott Vetoes Medical Marijuana Research Funding

On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $409 million in state projects, of which “three line items” would have generated millions for marijuana research at the University of Florida and the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Scott’s untimely veto rejects the will of the voters and strips the allocated funds from studying the medicinal plant. Classified as a Schedule I narcotic within the Controlled Substance Act, marijuana has long been labeled a “dangerous drug under federal law.” And, thanks to that farcical classification, DEA-approved research into the cannabis plant has been nearly nonexistent.

Eager to gain a greater understanding of the medicinal benefits and potential risks associated with medical marijuana, State Sen. Bill Galvano encouraged his fellow politicians to challenge the accepted norms. According to Florida’s News 4 Jax, Sen. Galvano was interested in learning more about “the real effects” of medicinal cannabis and what the potential downsides may be.

Florida’s legislators accepted Galvano’s challenge, responding with a budget that allocated $1 million to the Moffitt Cancer Center and $2 million to the University of Florida. Unfortunately, that critical funding never made it past the governor’s desk.

When vetoing the funding, Gov. Scott explained the University of Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center have plenty of cash to fund their own medical marijuana research.

“Gov. Scott also vetoed $370,000 tied to the Moffitt Cancer Center because lawmakers didn’t pass a bill setting up regulations for medical marijuana. Unless lawmakers act, the Department of Health will decide how to regulate medical cannabis.”

Legislators in the Sunshine State will creep back to the Capitol on Wednesday to begin their three-day special session. First taking on economic development and educational funding, the topic of medical marijuana isn’t currently on their scheduled agenda.