Marijuana in Second Half of Twentieth Century, Part II
As American appetites for marijuana increased, the stakes became higher, traffickers defended their turf more intensely, and law enforcement budgets inflated to try to keep pace with the illicit cargoes.
The Colombians who were moving the largest proportion of marijuana into the US were also bringing in cocaine and heroin. Shipments got bigger and so did seizures. In 1990, a half million pounds of marijuana were seized in the US. By 2006, this quantity had increased to 2.5 million pounds.
The potency of marijuana averaged between 3% and 4.5% in the 1990s and then began to climb steadily for the next decade. By 2008, the overall average THC content would hit 8.8%. Sinsemilla averaged between 11% and 13% while commercial marijuana averaged 5% to 6%.
In 2008, the highest result from testing cannabis samples was 37% THC.
Medical Marijuana Begins to be Approved, State by State
In 1996, California became the first state to approve the medical use of marijuana, despite federal bans remaining on the books. Initial approval was restricted to the treatment of AIDs, cancer, muscular spasticity, migraines, and several other disorders.
As other states began to launch legislation to approve medical use of marijuana, former presidents Ford, Carter, and Bush released statements urging voters to reject these initiatives because they circumvented the standard channels for approval of medications by the Food and Drug Administration. Cannabis as medicine, therefore, would skip tests that would prove its effectiveness and safety. Nevertheless, in November 1998, Alaska, Oregon and Washington passed legislation to legalize medical marijuana. Maine and Hawaii soon followed after, with many more states passing similar legislation in the next several years.
Despite state laws permitting medical use of marijuana, the federal government agencies and states would go head to head on the issue many times in the next decade.
Meanwhile, drug trafficking organizations continued to ship massive amounts of the drug into the US. By a few years into the new millennium, it was estimated that about 30 million pounds of marijuana were being trafficked in the US each year.
State by state, efforts continued to legalize the use of medical marijuana. In May 2012, Connecticut became the seventeenth state to legalize the use of medical marijuana.
Teens and Marijuana Use
While state and federal governments debated the merits or dangers of medical marijuana, an increasing number of teens began to abuse the drug. From a low of 33% in 1992, usage by high school seniors increased to 49% by 2001 and fluctuated between 42% and 45% through 2011.
Perhaps one of the most significant statistics related to teens and marijuana use is the measurement of how much risk teens think is associated with regular use of marijuana. In 1991, 82% of tenth graders felt that this was a risky activity. This number declined steadily until it reached 55% in 2011. A decreasing perception of risk is normally followed by increasing usage statistics.
By 2009, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 3.3 million youth (ages 12-17) were using marijuana recreationally. More than 800,000 showed characteristics of dependence or addiction.
Not surprisingly, the next year, 80% to 90% of American high school seniors said that the drug was “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain.
Effects of Increasing Marijuana Abuse
Despite the persistent arguments that marijuana is not addictive, this drug was responsible for 13% of treatment admissions in 1999. This number increased to 18% by 2009. This represents the number of people for whom marijuana was the primary or only drug they were using.
Here are some other facts about addiction treatment needs of young Americans in 2009:
- For both males and females, the peak age at admission to addiction treatment for marijuana was 15 to 17 years of age.
- Forty percent of marijuana addiction treatment admissions were under age 20.
- Seventy percent of all admissions for children 12 to 14 years of age were for marijuana.
- Seventy-two percent of all admissions for children 15 to 17 years of age were for marijuana.
Tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Board found that marijuana use affected a driver’s ability to concentrate on driving, think and react quickly to changing driving conditions. One study showed that a person who used marijuana within the three hours before driving doubled their risk of a traffic accident.
A study published in 2012 from King’s College in London and Duke University found that those under 20 years of age who abused marijuana at least four days a week lost an average of eight IQ points and that these IQ points did not recover if they stopped using the drug. When individuals refrained from smoking marijuana until they turned twenty, they were not similarly affected.
When a person is thinking about using any drug - inhalant, prescription or illicit drug - it is vital to have an understanding of the effect on oneself and the larger influences that surround the drug. You are to be congratulated for finding out more about marijuana for your own sake and so you can help your friends.