It has been widely reported over the past few years that attitudes towards marijuana have gradually shifted. The benefits of smoking it for medical purposes are more widely scientifically proven than ever before, and it has become obvious that patients suffering from a variety of illnesses and issues can benefit from using cannabis in controlled amounts. Equally, the perceived risk of legalising the drug to teens and young adults has been reduced due to statistics on legalisation being linked to lower use among teens, if anything.
As a result, overall public opinion on marijuana law has changed since the 1990s. Most surveys and polls show that the majority of people in the USA, as well as the UK, would be in favour of full legalisation for the drug, for both medical and recreational use. There are arguments to be made about the relative safety of smoking marijuana compared to the much higher risks of other illegal drugs, and comparisons to the legality and dangers of cigarette smoking and alcohol have been made. All signs point to public views being overall on the side of making marijuana legal.
However, for politicians the issue seems to be more complicated. In the USA, reportedly one in four legislators would support a total ban on marijuana in the entire country, despite more than half of American states currently allowing medical use in some situations. Although this is a minority, so far it has been enough to prevent any major legislative changes.
The major problem is that many people consider the current views of people in power not reflective of the overall public viewpoint, which ultimately leads to concerns about whether the laws passed (or not passed) in the near future will be in the public’s best interests or not. Many people will argue that political reform is necessary before we can expect major changes for marijuana law.
In the USA, the marijuana industry is growing so healthily that it’s being referred to as the “Green Rush”, with more growers and sellers getting into the trade every day. This isn’t all based on the underground industry, either, since 25 American states have legalised cannabis in some form or another, despite it still being outlawed overall by federal regulations.
This complicated system of rules and exceptions has been gradually pieced together over the decades, as initially the drug was deemed to have no useful applications and classed as more harmful than it was worth, despite any potential benefits. In 1970 it was banned across the country due to concerns about the risks associated with smoking marijuana, especially due to worries about young people becoming addicted to it early in life and spiralling out of control from there. It was always been seen by the most concerned people as a gateway into other more addictive and dangerous drugs.
However, since the initial ban on all cannabis, the states have gradually adopted their own individual laws legalising it for certain uses. In some areas it has become classed as acceptable to use marijuana for medical reasons, for example to help people suffering from stress and anxiety, as well as for pain relief. In other areas, personal use for recreational purposes is also allowed, but selling the drug itself is not. This is why many sellers provide seeds rather than plants, allowing users to grow their own if they choose to for their own personal use.
In a few places, however, selling marijuana in certain forms is now legal too, which is what is currently contributing to a significant upturn for the overall market. More business-minded people are coming into the industry with fresh and creative ideas, so new legal businesses focused on providing cannabis in various forms are popping up across the USA. These include delivery services for marijuana, food and snacks made with marijuana, and tourist attractions based around the history of cannabis or even showing off cannabis farms.
Due to legislative changes in the past few years, the USA is currently taking bigger steps in terms of medical marijuana use than it has for many decades. Even for people who live in states or countries where medical use is not permitted, we hear many stories from people about how cannabis has been a great help to them when dealing with various medical conditions, most commonly those suffering from chronic pain.
Occasionally there may be some mental health benefits to marijuana too, although the majority of surveys have led to different conclusions. There are links to be found between prolonged cannabis use and depression or even psychosis, which may be very worrying. However, the true effects of marijuana on overall mental health are still a relative mystery.
What we do know is that according to data collected in the late 1990s, over half of subjects who suffered with mental health problems also reported problems with substance abuse at one time in their lives. Cause and effect cannot be accurately determined here, but the majority of these mental health conditions were reported to pre-date the substance problem, and not the other way round. This does mean a link between the two is vague at best. Similar results have come out of attempts to link cannabis use to anxiety problems.
On the other hand, more recent research has suggested that marijuana use in early life can actually double the risk of developing psychosis or schizophrenia, depending on family history. It is recommended that due to the short term and long term effects of the drug on the brain’s functions, marijuana should not be used by people with a family or personal history of either of these conditions, in case the condition is worsened.
In fact, if you find that smoking marijuana has any negative effects on your mental health, you should prioritise your future wellbeing and stop using it entirely. It’s important to be aware of your body’s responses to using any drugs so you can make a sensible decision about whether it’s worth the risk of continuing to use them, and the potential dangers should not be underestimated, even if other people don’t share in your experiences.
Across the United States, and in a few other countries, cannabis use is gradually becoming more accepted in a medicinal context. Medical marijuana has been proven to offer a range of benefits to people with certain conditions, mainly connected to relieving pain, but also mental health and stress issues when used in small doses. This is despite the potential health risks, which previously have prevented states from legalising it for people who might be able to benefit.
One of the major concerns help by many people was that teens are more likely to smoke cannabis for recreational purposes if the law makes it easier to get hold of. The logic is that making cannabis obtainable by patients who could benefit from it health-wise makes it less difficult for teens to do the same. Normalising marijuana by allowing it to be used for medical reasons has long been argued as a bad thing for teenagers who are tempted to smoke it.
However, recent developments in the USA have led to some statistics being gathered that show the exact opposite situation. Now 25 states legalise cannabis in some form, mostly for medical use, and 39% of high school students reported using marijuana at least once (figures taken from a 2015 survey). In comparison, 20 years earlier the same data was collected, at which point almost all of these states still had a complete ban on cannabis use for any reason. Then the data showed roughly 44% of the same demographic used marijuana.
It may be that changing tastes and fashion have not been accounted for here, as well as many other factors. A direct link between legalising cannabis for medical purposes and reduced consumption among teenagers cannot necessarily be determined from this study. However, the findings match with dozens of similar surveys across the world, which certainly gives the impression that it’s impossible to link legalisation with an increase in teen use.