The perception of marijuana use has changed dramatically over the recent decades. Although marijuana is still treated by the federal government as an illicit substance, there are many individuals, groups, and states who have different opinions on marijuana. This may or may not be a good thing, and we will perhaps see the consequences (good or bad) down the road. Here are a few pivotal periods in the perception of marijuana in the United States.
Although many people use marijuana without many consequences, it’s important to know that there are possible negative side effects. From lack of motivation to difficulty with memory and cognitive functions, marijuana isn’t always safe. There are many conflicting pieces of research, but the general consensus is that marijuana is not as dangerous as we thought in the 30’s, but there may be some side effects both physically and mentally. If you or somebody you know is struggling with dependence or addiction, be sure to find a marijuana addiction treatment center for professional care and help.
In the late 1930’s the film Reefer Madness was released. This was a propaganda film about what may happen to teenagers who use marijuana. The film featured scenes of murder, suicide, attempted rape, and many more violent and dangerous situations which may occur from using marijuana. This phase of Reefer Madness in the country was indicative of how society felt about cannabis use.
Marijuana grew in popularity in the beginning of the 20th century, as Latin American immigrants introduced the use of recreational marijuana to the country and made it popular. Within a year after the release of Reefer Madness, marijuana was essentially illegalized by the Marijuana Tax Act. This period of marijuana history was largely one of fear, misunderstanding, and judgement. It is responsible for marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I substance, making it a dangerous drug like many opioids in the eyes of the federal government.
During the 1960’s marijuana became popular once again, especially as a counter-cultural movement. Part of this was the result of studies that showed that marijuana was not likely to cause violence or sexual assault as portrayed before in popular media. Marijuana use became popular in middle class and upper-middle class white teens and young adults. It was also during this period that treatment became a option for people convicted of marijuana possession rather than mandatory jail time for first-time offenders.
In 1996, the now-famous Proposition 215 was passed in California. Known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, Proposition 215 was passed with 56% of the votes, and marijuana cultivation, possession, and use was legalized for those with a physician’s recommendation. This was the beginning of legal medical marijuana in the US, and it has spread across the country despite the federal government’s firm stance against marijuana use.
Today, there are 29 states and the District of Columbia with legalized marijuana for medical use. Marijuana has been found to help alleviate pain and induce hunger, making it useful in treating cancer, anorexia, chronic pain, and many other conditions. The legalization of medical marijuana has helped change the perception of the substance in the country, although many states still hold strict cannabis laws. During the late 90’s, we became much more accepting of the possibility that marijuana is not as bad as we once thought it was.
There are currently eight states with legalized recreational marijuana use. It began back in 2012 with Colorado and Washington. One of the driving forces of the marijuana legalization movement is that it generates quite a bit of revenue in taxes for the state. Rather than putting more money into the hands of drug dealers, the money goes to support education, addiction treatment, and our communities.
The data shows that there has been a change in perception of marijuana use in recent decades. Many more people are favoring legalization than ever, and we as a society have become much more accepting of marijuana use recreationally.
What Does it Mean?
This relaxed attitude toward cannabis use has resulted in an increase in marijuana use. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 7.5% of Americans 12 and older were current users of marijuana in 2013. Although there is conflicting evidence of marijuana being a gateway drug, there is evidence clearly showing that marijuana use in teen years impacts brain development and cognitive function. Marijuana is indeed addictive, and individuals can experience full dependence.
The good news of this more relaxed view is that we are not punishing people so harshly for marijuana use. People are offered the opportunity more often to receive treatment than they were in the past, and not punished by being incarcerated in a place often full of drugs.