A few people expressed surprise when I reported on the discovery of a marijuana grow house in Bemidji on Tuesday.
And it wasn’t because of the scope of the operation that was discovered by the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, it was due to the people who were involved. While it’s certainly reasonable to be surprised when someone is involved with an operation that included 85 plants and nearly a half pound of processed marijuana, the amount – and identity – of people using the drug should be less shocking.
It’s a number that seems to be increasing as marijuana use become more and more socially acceptable.The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s page on marijuana legalization says this:
“Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with nearly 17 million Americans age 12 and older reporting past‐month use.”
“Approximately 3.6 million Americans are daily or near daily users,” Roger Roffman, a professor of social work at the University of Washington reported for the New York Times in 2009.
From that same article, Peter Reuter, a professor at the School of Public Policy and the Department of Criminology at the University of Maryland, and the co-author of Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond the Stalemate, had this to say:
“Experimenting with marijuana has long been a normal part of growing up in the U.S.; about half of the population born since 1960 has tried the drug by age 21. Perhaps one out of six has used it for a year or more.”
So, should we be surprised if our neighbor is running a grow operation with the potential to net over $100,000 in profits from the drug? Probably. But should we be surprised that our neighbor has smoked pot? According to the chart you see below from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive, certainly not.
One thing to keep in mind: the information you see above was gleaned from people who were willing to tell someone from a government survey that they’d used an illegal drug.
More recently, a Nov., 2012 USA Today/Gallup Poll showed that “Sixty-four percent of Americans are against the federal government’s taking steps to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal.”
Now, obviously there are issues of states’ rights that play into the thoughts of many who fell into that 64 percent, but it is noteworthy nonetheless:
“The issue of what the federal government should do in these situations is particularly relevant, given recently passed initiatives in Washington and Colorado that legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. These state-level laws are at odds with the federal Controlled Substances Act that makes marijuana use illegal.”
But what that USA Today/Gallup Poll did show is a skyrocketing increase in support for the legalization of marijuana, which now sits basically at 50/50 among U.S. citizens. In 1970 only 10 percent of Americans favored legalization of the drug; now it’s nearly half.
There’s not much that’s surprising about the breakdown of those numbers (young people support legalization more than those 30 and older; Democrats favor legalization more than Republicans), but it may be surprising for some to see how rapidly this country’s position on the drug has changed.