Pubdate: Mon, 15 Aug 2016
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2016 The Denver Post Corp
Author: Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post


19 Percent of Adult Partakers Don't Have High School Degrees.

A massive study published this month in the Journal of Drug Issues 
found that the proportion of marijuana users who smoke daily has 
rapidly grown, and that many of those frequent users are poor and 
lack a high school diploma.

Examining a decade of federal surveys of drug use conducted between 
2002 and 2013, study authors Steven Davenport and Jonathan Caulkins 
paint one of the clearest pictures yet of the demographics of current 
marijuana use in the U.S. They found that the profile of marijuana 
users is much closer to cigarette smokers than alcohol drinkers, and 
that a handful of users consume much of the marijuana used in the U.S.

"In the early 1990s only one in nine past-month (marijuana) users 
reported using daily or near daily," Davenport and Caulkins write. 
"Now it is fully one in three. Daily or near-daily users now account 
for over two-thirds of self-reported days of use (68 percent)." These 
usage patterns are similar to what's seen among tobacco users.

"What's going on here is that over the last 20 years marijuana went 
from being used like alcohol to being used more like tobacco, in the 
sense of lots of people using it every day," Caulkins said in an e-mail.

Adults with less than a high school education accounted for 19 
percent of all marijuana use in 2012 and 2013 (compared with 13 
percent of the total adult population), according to the survey. This 
is similar to their 20 percent share of all cigarette use but 
considerably higher than their 8 percent share of all alcohol use.

Similarly, Americans of all ages with a household income of less than 
$20,000 accounted for 29 percent of all marijuana use and 27 percent 
of all cigarette use, compared with only 13 percent of all alcohol 
use and 19 percent of the total adult population.

The concentration of use among poorer households means that many 
marijuana users are spending a high proportion of their income on 
their marijuana habit. Users who spend fully one quarter of their 
income on weed account for 15 percent of all marijuana use.

One interesting finding is that during the past 10 years as many 
states have liberalized their marijuana policies, marijuana arrests 
are down while marijuana purchases are up. This means that the risk 
of getting arrested for marijuana use has fallen sharply since 2002. 
That year, there was one marijuana arrest for every 550 marijuana 
purchases, according to Davenport and Caulkins. By 2013, there was 
one marijuana arrest for every 1,090 purchases.

"The criminal risk per marijuana transaction has fallen by half," 
they conclude. Much of that risk is still born by non-white marijuana users.

Davenport and Caulkins stress that since the study was conducted over 
a period preceding the opening of recreational marijuana markets in 
Colorado and Washington, it doesn't offer any evidence on the merits 
or lack thereof of legalization.

"Our results can in no way be interpreted as evidence toward the 
successes or failures of marijuana legalization or even medical 
marijuana laws," they write.

However, they say their research presents a number of things to 
consider as states such as California, Arizona and Maine vote on 
marijuana legalization this fall.

"Most people who have used marijuana in the past year are in full 
control of their use, and are generally happy with that use," 
Caulkins said in an e-mail. But "consumption is highly concentrated 
among the smaller number of daily and near-daily users, and they tend 
to be less educated, less affluent and less in control of their use."

The median marijuana user, in other words, may be someone who 
indulges periodically but generally doesn't consume a lot of it. 
However, most of the marijuana consumed in the U.S. isn't consumed by 
the median marijuana user, but rather by the very heavy users who 
smoke daily or more.

"There is a sharp contrast between what policy is best for the 
typical user versus what is best for the people who consume most of 
the marijuana," Caulkins said. Heavy users who overindulge may find 
it even easier to do so when marijuana is legal and cheaper to buy.

The findings support the argument for legalization measures to be 
accompanied by public health protections - such as treatment programs 
and public awareness campaigns educating people about the risks of overuse.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom