People More Open to Cannabis in States With Medical-Use Laws

In November, many states will have some sort of marijuana-related initiative on their ballots, with California once again attempting to legalize the drug. (Proposition 19 failed in 2010.) So what better time to gauge the nation’s attitude toward cannabis than in the months leading up to Election Day?

Well, in the case of a federal-government study, the data were collected years ago but only released today. The study addresses how marijuana is viewed and consumed in states where it’s legal for medical use, such as California — the results are interesting, if not surprising.

In places like Texas, Utah, and Oklahoma — all non-medical cannabis states — 29 to 36 percent of respondents believed there was a “great risk of harm” from marijuana use. And of the places where the percentage of use in the past month was highest, California had two of the top areas - including San Francisco, where 15.46 percent of respondents reported using cannabis in the last month, one of the highest numbers nationwide.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which compiled the study, is tasked with slowing the nation’s use of drugs like marijuana, so they say the data can “help public health officials and others better gauge the marijuana-related prevention and treatment needs in their communities and fine-tune their programs and services to best address them.”

But what the study probably proves most is that cannabis legalization, whether for adult use or for medical purposes, is likely to happen in more and more states this year. Marijuana is already the most widely used drug in the U.S., even more so than prescription drugs, and now fewer and fewer people view it as harmful, even if it is far from safe.

As the study pointed out, “research indicates that 1 in 11 marijuana users aged 15 or older become dependent on marijuana.” And, “marijuana use has resulted in approximately 4.2 million people meeting the diagnostic criteria for abuse or dependence on marijuana, is a major cause for visits to emergency rooms, and is the second leading substance for which people receive drug treatment (behind alcohol).”

That might spell doom for Southern states (where the study found less acceptance for marijuana) like Missouri and Arkansas, which have medical-use initiatives on the November ballot, but probably won’t stop states like California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine from legalizing cannabis for adult use.

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