Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Older Cannabis Users are Coming out of the Proverbial Closet

Mary Jane's getting older

The push for marijuana legalization is not just from college students

by Evan Schwartz
Hatchet Columnist


Last week, the Obama administration pledged to stop cracking down on
citizens using medical marijuana, as long as they were complying with
state laws. Fourteen states have laws allowing medical marijuana, and
more may follow in the coming years. The growing acceptance of marijuana
as a legitimate medical treatment has directly resulted in legislative
change, and the latest moves by Obama suggest the issue will be left to
the states.

Many GW students may see this as a positive indication that legalized
marijuana nationwide will soon be a reality. Perhaps smoking a bowl with
friends will no longer have to occur in secret, and residence hall rooms
will no longer be raided by University Police Department officers
looking for pot paraphernalia. But anyone thinking only college students
would be affected by the legalization of marijuana would be ignoring the
increasing population of adult smokers who make up a large part of the
pot smoking population in the U.S.

As many would expect, the largest demographic of marijuana users is
people ages 18 to 25. According to the government's Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Data Archive, close to 44 percent of high school seniors
have tried pot, and more than 50 percent of college-aged Americans
reported using marijuana at one time in their lives. These statistics
lead many opponents of pot to label it as a drug of abuse for youth.

But doing so ignores the steadily increasing demographic of older pot
users. While more than a quarter of college-aged kids report using
marijuana in the last year, close to 14 percent of people ages 26-34
have smoked pot in the last year, and more than 8 percent of people ages
35-49 say the same. It is easy to assume the efforts to legalize
marijuana are coming mostly from our generation, namely kids in their
late teens and early 20s. That assumption makes the legalization effort
easy to dismiss, as though it is coming from a bunch of hippy college
kids who just want to get high. But the statistics show that, more and
more, marijuana use is extending into middle age and even becoming a
more accepted part of adult life.

All told, more than 22 million Americans have smoked pot in the last
year. That's a sizable portion of the population breaking the law. That
high amount of law-breaking leads to a high amount of arrests. According
to the Federal Bureau of Investigation' s annual Uniform Crime Report,
police nationwide arrested nearly 850,000 people last year for
marijuana-related offenses. Those arrests cost taxpayers hundreds of
millions of dollars, and though marijuana laws are seen as a way to
protect children, the laws affect more adults than ever before.

In the same way Prohibition in the 20th century bred bootlegging and
organized crime, marijuana legislation has wasted taxpayer money, put
millions of people in jail and helped start a full-fledged drug war in
Mexico. The current administration has made it clear they will not
pursue a full legalization of marijuana. But with more adults showing up
to the pot party, legal marijuana may no longer be a pipe dream.

The writer, a junior majoring in journalism and mass communication, is a
Hatchet columnist.

http://media. www.gwhatchet. com/media/ storage/paper332 /news/2009/ 11/02/Op\
inions/Evan- Schwartz. Mary.Janes. Getting.Older- 3819851.shtml

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