Is Chronic Marijuana a Problem in the United States?

As we continue our battle towards federal legalization of the cannabis plant, the latest study from the federal government is being interpreted by many that chronic marijuana usage will continue to grow. The study shows that people who use marijuana, for medical or recreational use, have been shown to consume cannabis 300 days out of the year.

We don’t think that chronic marijuana use will become an issue, due to cannabis being less detrimental to the body in comparison to alcohol. This study compares alcohol users to marijuana users, but the main thing that is not considered, is that marijuana is still in prohibition. Once the United States changes it’s policy on marijuana, the plant becomes more mainstream and the numbers will even out. Just like anything in life, there is risk of dependency. Our question is: If you are going to choose either marijuana or alcohol to relax after a long day or use all day long, which is more detrimental to your body and brain?

The latest federal survey data shows that while teen marijuana use continues to decline in the era of legal pot, adult use is rising. The percent of people over the age of 18 who smoke it in a given year has risen from 10.4 percent in 2002 to 14.1 percent in 2016. In other words, 46 million people got high last year.

In and of itself, the increase in adult marijuana use isn’t particularly alarming. Public-health researchers are typically more worried about adolescent drug use, which can derail a young person’s life. If more adults are smoking marijuana once or twice a year — even once or twice a month — it’s not really a huge concern.

More concerning, though, is the number of people who are getting high all the time — heavy users who smoke on a daily or near-daily basis. The federal data shows that those numbers are increasingly precipitously.

Increased chronic marijuana use may be a concern for some, but in recreational weed states and medical marijuana states, will the novelty of the end of prohibition eventually wear off?

In 2016,  nearly 19 percent of people who used marijuana that year used it at least 300 days out of the year. That figure’s up by roughly 50 percent from 2002, when 12 percent of marijuana users consumed the drug daily or near-daily.

Again, this on its own is not necessarily cause for concern. It’s possible to smoke marijuana moderately on a daily basis — half a joint to wind down after a day of work, akin to the ubiquitous glass of wine with dinner, for instance.

In a given year, lots of people drink — but relatively few of them drink every day. That’s not true for marijuana. Marijuana users are nearly three times as likely as drinkers to consume their drug of choice daily.

Some of that daily marijuana use is probably inherently moderate and nothing to be concerned about. But public health researchers worry that much of it is a result of problematic use — drug dependency.

“While alcohol is more dangerous in terms of acute overdose risk, and also in terms of promoting violence and chronic organ failure, marijuana — at least as now used in the United States — creates higher rates of behavioral problems, including dependence, among all its users,” as Carnegie Mellon University researcher Jonathan Caulkins wrote for the magazine National Affairs earlier this year.

Public-health experts, meanwhile, are increasingly calling for a balance between the extremes of prohibition and commercialization — “grudging toleration,” as New York University professor Mark Kleiman puts it. As a Rand Corp. report outlined last year, there are a whole host of options for dealing with the marijuana market, from allowing people to grow marijuana but not sell it, to giving the government a monopoly in marijuana sales, to more esoteric options like allowing nonprofit co-ops to control the supply of the drug.



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Brian Wroblewski

Brian Wroblewski has a passion for writing, travel, food and family. Since working in and around the cannabis industry since 2008, Brian brings a unique perspective to the cannabis journalism space. With a focus on emerging brands, moving the cannabis industry forward and an undeniable passion for truth in business and journalism, find some of Brian's posts across the web on digital marketing, cannabis and a variety of different topics.

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One Comment

  1. What is chronic use of cannabis? If it is used for medical I would expect it to be used daily. Who is worried about this? I believe chronicity is in the eye of the beholder. It becomes a problem when it disrupts your normal routine, and otherwise it is not an issue.

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