As two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the use of marijuana, it should come as no surprise that the National Survey on Drug Use and Health has found that more Americans are lighting up and taking “a softer stance” on the use of marijuana.
Not only are opinions changing, but the survey also noted that more Americans regularly use marijuana. In fact, in 2012, it is estimated that 7.3% of Americans 12 and older regularly use the drug. This is up from 7% in 2011 for this same age group. These statistics follow a trend some have noticed for years. Namely, that marijuana use is on the rise. In fact, it’s estimated that in 2007, marijuana use for Americans 12 or older was at 5.8%.
The survey, which was conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, asked questions to approximated 70,000 people ages 12 and older throughout the United States. Their goal was to understand drug and alcohol use a little better in the United States.
Legalized marijuana- what does the Federal Government say?
Many wondered what would happen as state laws changed to legalize the use of marijuana but the federal government continued to criminalize the drug. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department is not going to do anything or try to enforce federal laws in certain states. Holder did note, however, as states legalize the use of marijuana they must continue to limit its use by minors and regulate the sale of the drugs.
What would have happened if the federal government decided to investigate marijuana users in Washington and Colorado? It could have meant that marijuana users in those states could have faced federal prosecution even if they followed their state’s laws for its legal use.
How big is the drug problem?
Despite millions and millions of dollars spent each year to combat the drug trade, drug use is still an issue in the United States. According to experts, “Nearly 24 million Americans, about 9.2% of the population, use illicit drugs. Illicit drugs include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants and the non-medical use of painkillers, tranquilizers and stimulants. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug.”
Surprisingly, the use of heroin is also on the rise, spiking 80% since 2007, when only an estimated 373,000 people reported using heroin. Now that number is closer to 669,000.
Effects of drug use
Although over 11 million people smoke marijuana each month, many of them do not realize that marijuana use does have side effects which can include physical problems like breathing difficulties and deteriorating physical abilities. It also increases risk for lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes. It can also lower one’s ability to learn, remember and adapt quickly to changes. Clearly, marijuana use is not is harmless.
Some experts note that real progress has been made in some areas to combat drug use but more work needs to be done to help people understand the devastating impact drug use has not only on individuals but also on their families and their communities.
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