Pubdate: Tue, 09 Aug 2016
Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
Copyright: 2016 Austin American-Statesman
Note: Letters MUST be 150 words or less
Author: Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post


Marijuana Use Could Overtake Cigarette Use in a Few Years.

A new Gallup poll out today finds that the percent- age of American 
adults who say they currently smoke marijuana has nearly doubled over 
the past three years.

In 2013, only 7 percent of adults said they were marijuana smokers. 
When Gallup asked again in July of this year, 13 percent admitted to 
current marijuana use. That works out to more than 33 million adult 
marijuana users in the U.S. If America's marijuana users resided in 
one state, it would be bigger than Texas and second only to 
California in population.

There are currently about 40 million cigarette smokers in the U.S., 
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given 
that cigarette use is in decline, marijuana use could become more 
prevalent than cigarette use in just a few years' time.

There are likely several factors driving these numbers. Since 2013, 
recreational marijuana markets opened in Colorado and Washington, and 
several other states voted to legalize marijuana in the fall 2014. 
It's likely that adults in those places are taking advantage of the 
new opportunities to indulge legally.

Part of the rise may also be due to decreased social stigma 
surrounding marijuana use. National surveys show support for legal 
marijuana hovering in the 55 percent to 60 percent range. Certain 
legislators have called for restrictions on marijuana to be loosened 
at the federal level use or to legalize it completely.

Recreational marijuana use remains illegal at the federal level and 
in most states. Police are arresting people for possessing marijuana 
at record-high rates - more than 1,700 per day, according to 2014 FBI data.

Still, attitudes toward marijuana use have come a long way from the 
"this is your brain on drugs" era of the 1980s and '90s, when Ronald 
Reagan was calling marijuana "the most dangerous drug in the United 
States" and top law enforcement officials were publicly calling for 
marijuana smokers to be "taken out and shot."

Much of this shift in attitudes could be due to lived experience. In 
the late 1960s, fewer than 5 percent of adults told Gallup they had 
ever smoked marijuana. Today that number is up to 43 percent. 
Regardless of whether they use it currently, nearly half of American 
adults now have first-hand experience using marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom