Pubdate: Tue, 09 Aug 2016
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2016 Star Tribune
Author: Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post


A new Gallup poll out Monday finds that the percent 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 United States. 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 government. 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. Recreational 
marijuana is legal in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington state. 
Five states - California, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona and Nevada - 
are voting on marijuana legalization in November. 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. 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, 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 
data from the FBI.

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 
President 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 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 firsthand experience using marijuana.

Pot laws and pot use has come up on the presidential campaign trail this year.

Republican Donald Trump has boasted that he has never smoked 
marijuana or a cigarette. Democrat Hillary Clinton was adamant on CNN 
when asked whether she had ever smoked marijuana, replying that she 
never had and never would: "Absolutely not."

But despite their personal views, Clinton and Trump have pledged to 
allow the states to regulate marijuana. McClatchy Washington Bureau 
contributed to this report.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom