View attachment 43820 People have been growing and using marijuana for thousands of years. Ancient texts praised the plant for its versatility — it was used for its psychoactive and medical effects and to make clothes and paper. But in 1934, the US effectively banned the plant with strict taxes and regulations — a prohibition that, despite some major changes to the regulatory model, remains to this day.
Now, that may be changing: public support for marijuana legalization in the US is at an all-time high. And in 2014, voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, approved legalization. Given the recent shift in momentum, there's perhaps no better time to analyze this plant, where it came from, and what’s next for the policies surrounding it.
How marijuana spread across the world
View attachment 43812 Marijuana is believed to have originated in southeast Asia, around modern China. Chinese folklore credits Emperor Shen Nung, who’s often referred to as the father of Chinese medicine, with discovering its medicinal uses, and a Chinese pharmacopoeia from 1500 BC contains references to medical marijuana. The Chinese also used hemp for cloth and paper, and fragments of hemp cloth have been found in ancient Chinese burial grounds. It’s widely believed that marijuana eventually spread through the Middle East to ancient Greece and Rome, before making its way through the rest of Europe, where it was used for hemp fiber, throughout the Middle Ages. After Europeans began to colonize the Americas, marijuana seeds and plants traveled on European ships to South and North America. Hemp was very popular in colonial America; British colonies were required by law to grow hemp, and many of the founding fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, grew the plant for its strong fibers.
Marijuana most likely won’t kill you
View attachment 43813 There have never been any deaths directly linked to marijuana-caused health effects. An American Scientist analysis found that to fatally overdose, someone would have to take 1,000 times the effective dose (the amount required to get high) of marijuana. In comparison, heroin’s fatal dose was five times its effective dose, alcohol’s was 10, and cocaine’s was 15. It is, in other words, very, very difficult — and perhaps close to impossible — to die from a marijuana overdose. But that doesn’t mean marijuana is perfectly safe. A lot of research has associated teen marijuana use with a range of bad consequences, including cognitive deficiencies and worse education outcomes. Researchers haven’t established that the association is causal, but most generally agree the drug must have some negative effect on the developing teen brain.
Researchers consider marijuana to be safer than alcohol
View attachment 43814 British researchers in 2010 sought out to identify the most dangerous drugs, both to society and individuals. They looked at all sorts of variables, including drug-induced health effects, changes in behavior, and impacts on violence and crime. They found the most dangerous drugs were alcohol, heroin, and crack — although alcohol's prominence was partly attributable to how accessible it is, since it’s legal and highly commercialized. Marijuana placed towards the middle of the list. Although there are some problems with the rankings, experts generally agree marijuana is safer than legal substances like alcohol and tobacco.
Marijuana is getting more potent
View attachment 43815 The amount of THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive compound, found in pot seized by US law enforcement has greatly increased over the past few decades. This means that someone can now smoke considerably less marijuana to get high — or someone can get much more stoned than might have been possible before. As for why potency is increasing, the most obvious reason is consumer demand: people simply want stronger pot to more quickly reach the effect they desire. Packing more potency into a joint is also beneficial for drug traffickers, since it lets them smuggle smaller portions of the drug, which lowers the chances of getting caught, while making it possible to charge higher prices.
Marijuana is really popular in the former British colonies
View attachment 43816 Several former British colonies — the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Nigeria — seem to have taken up marijuana at higher rates, alongside Spain and Italy. The US demand for marijuana is a particularly big deal, since it’s what drives the drug flow from South America to Central America to the US — and all the violent drug cartel activity that goes along with the illicit marijuana trade. At several points throughout the war on drugs, federal officials have called on the American public to stop buying illicit drugs so drug cartels no longer have a steady supply of revenue. Americans don’t seem to be listening.
Alaska, Vermont, and Oregon have the most pot users per capita
View attachment 43817 Some states enjoy their weed more than others. Two of the three states with the most reported pot users as a percent of the population — Alaska and Oregon — voted to legalize marijuana in November.
How often Americans use pot in a one-minute time span
Every green blink on this map signifies someone consuming marijuana. To some degree, the map is a reflection of the population in each state. California is the most populous state, so it's little surprise that there's at least one Californian using marijuana each second. Still, it’s remarkable to see just how much Americans are using an illegal substance.
Marijuana use among US teens has been relatively flat
The number of high school students reporting past-month marijuana use remained relatively flat in the past few years, even as other drug use fell. Drug policy experts attribute these kinds of fluctuations in drug use to cultural shifts, fads, and changing demographics. Surveys show that society as a whole increasingly views marijuana as relatively safe, especially in direct comparisons to tobacco and alcohol. Supporters of marijuana prohibition argue relaxed marijuana laws, such as medical marijuana legalization, have made the drug more accessible to teens. But several studies found no increase in teen marijuana use in states that legalized the drug for medicinal purposes.
By German Lopez - Vox/April 20, 2015
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