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Marijuana Legalization and Marijuana Trends

From board rooms to family rooms, marijuana legalization continues to be a hot topic in the news, political debates and casual conversations. This is largely due to rapidly changing attitudes toward marijuana in the United States.

  • Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in America with 17.4 million past-month users and used by 76.8% of current illicit drug users. (Source: NSDUH)
  • According to a January 2014 poll by NBC News and Wall Street Journal, the majority of American adults (55%) now support legalization of marijuana.

Likewise, the percentage of high-schoolers who see great risk from being regular marijuana users has dropped dramatically in the past 10 years, according to 2013 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, which measures drug use and attitudes among the nation's 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. The change in attitudes is reflected in continued high rates of marijuana use among high schoolers. From 2008 to 2013, past-month use of marijuana increased:

  • 5.8% to 7.0% among 8th graders
  • 13.8% to 18.0% among 10th graders
  • 19.4% to 22.7% among 12th graders

In light of this collective shift in attitudes towards marijuana in America, Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment is analyzing the potential consequences of marijuana use.

Medical Marijuana Legalization

Now Trending: Legalizing Marijuana

From medical marijuana authorization in Illinois to the legalization of recreational marijuana in select states, a majority (55%) of Americans today support legalizing marijuana, according to a January 2014 poll by CNN/ORC.

On August 2, 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, P.A., 98-0122. As of January 1, 2014, the Act established a four-year pilot program in Illinois that authorizes the cultivation and distribution of medical cannabis for the use of registered qualifying patients (RQPs). RQPs are only those patients who have certain specified debilitating medical conditions and obtain state registration cards.

Medical Marijuana LegalizationAre "medical" and "street" marijuana different?

In principle, no. Most marijuana sold in dispensaries as medicine is the same quality and carries the same health risks as marijuana sold on the street. However, given the therapeutic interest in cannabidiol (CBD) to treat certain conditions, such as childhood epilepsy, strains with a higher than normal CBD:THC ratio have been specially bred and sold for medicinal purposes; these may be less desirable to recreational users because they have weaker psychoactive effects.

Cannabinoids in Medicine

Cannabis has been used medically for thousands of years. In 2700 BCE, Shen Neng, Chinese Emperor and father of Chinese medicine, used cannabis as a remedy. The Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text, also mentions cannabis. It was written in 1500 BCE and is one of the oldest pharmaceutical works known. Two FDA-approved drugs, Dronabinol and Nabilone, contain THC and are used to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and wasting disease (extreme weight loss) caused by AIDS.

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