What is Recreational Marijuana?

By: Chris Anderson Psy.D.

Medical marijuana has been around for some time and is legal in most states with a valid medical diagnosis such as glaucoma, epilepsy, cancer, and, just recently in Minnesota, PTSD. Medical marijuana is closely regulated, prescribed by a physician, and used to alleviate symptoms of a medical condition. Recreational marijuana, on the other hand, is pot used by regular citizens without a medical reason. Recreational marijuana typically has a higher THC content than medicinal varieties and produces a euphoric high that medical varieties typically do not.

How Many States Permit it?

There are currently 11 states (CA, WA, OR, NV, IL, MI, ME, MA, CO, VT, AK) and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational marijuana. For many states, recreational marijuana has become a tax revenue boon. For instance, in 2018 the state of Colorado sold roughly $1.2 billon in recreational marijuana. This produced around $270 million dollars in tax revenue for the state, over 5X the tax revenue of the $45 million the stated collected on alcohol tax. With sales producing this sort of revenue, it may only be a matter of time before the other states follow suit with legalizing recreational marijuana.

Are People in Favor of Legalization?

It seems attitudes toward marijuana and its legalization have been changing over the last decade. Nearly two-thirds of Americans now support the legalization of recreational marijuana. One survey found that the majority of Millennials, GenXers, and Baby Boomers say marijuana should be legal. Politically, Democratic-leaning people favor legalization over Republican-leaning citizens (78% vs 55%), however, it can be seen that over half in both groups support it. Nearly half (48%) of Americans say they have tried marijuana at some time in their lives and more support its use. Given this, it seems legalization may be inevitable as many states are already entertaining it at legislative levels.

Does Crime Increase in States that Have Legalized?

There have been several studies monitoring for any increases in crime rates following the legalization of recreational marijuana. In most of these studies, there has been no apparent increase in crime rates. That said, the first three states to legalize did see a marked increase in car crashes. These states have struggled to define driving high and figure out ways to deter it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drivers who are high tend to drive at lower speeds, they have more difficulty staying in their lane, and braking in emergency situations. In short, violent crime has not increased, but the roads may be less safe.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Long before marijuana became legal recreationally it was addictive. Of the people who end up in substance abuse treatment centers, alcohol remains the number one most abused and problematic chemical. Marijuana has been, and remains, the second most abused chemical people get treatment for. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean you can’t get addicted to it. Alcohol has been legal for a long time and roughly 13% of Americans have an alcohol use disorder. By removing the criminal deterrent it is expected that rates of marijuana addiction will increase. Further increasing this risk is the fact that the potency of marijuana has been increasing over time. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has gone from 3-4% in the 1970-1980’s up to the current average of 12% THC due to genetic manipulation of cannabis. There have been samples as high as 30% THC making it highly potent. An average sample in Colorado was found to be 18%. This refining process can be seen at its most extreme with marijuana wax which has THC levels of 90%. Although the proliferation of recreational marijuana may be coming, it will be important for those with predisposition to addiction to be very careful in their use.

Problems with substance abuse are all too common. If you are concerned about your substance abuse, or that of a loved one, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule a consultation with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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