While marijuana laws are continuing to progress in the United States, it’s important to recognize the politicians who made legalization possible. Even before marijuana became legal in major states, a number of politicians, including governors and senators, publicly showed their support in favor of legalizing marijuana. Although their efforts may be slow, they’ve helped the United States take important steps in destigmatizing and legalizing marijuana.
By 2014, out of the 50 governors and 100 senators in the United States, only one had announced his support of full marijuana legalization, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). That same year, his state introduced a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, which Merkley said, “But I feel on balance that we spend a lot of money on our criminal justice system in the wrong places and I lean in favor of this ballot measure,” making him the first senator in his state to support legalizing the drug. At the same time, Alaska had introduced a similar measure, but neither the state’s governor nor senators expressed their support. Colorado and Washington had already legalized marijuana at this point as well, but even the senators in those states were reluctant to announce their public support of marijuana, although they do respect the decision made by their state’s’ voters.
DENVER – A new study says that Colorado’s marijuana users aren’t quite the tie-dye wearing, jobless slackers they are sometimes stereotyped as, but rather happy folks who are more likely than non-users to have a full-time job.
The study was put together by BSD Analytics, and compared three groups of people in Colorado and California to one another:
- Consumers: People who consume marijuana;
- Acceptors: People who don’t currently use marijuana but might consider doing so, and;
- Rejecters: People who don’t use marijuana and don’t plan to.
Two-thousand people were interviewed in both states, and 600 people who had used marijuana in the last six months were included.
The study found that 64 percent of Coloradans who used marijuana held full-time jobs, compared to 51 percent of “acceptors” and 54 percent of “rejecters.”
It also found that nearly half of the Coloradans surveyed said they were “more satisfied with life” now than they were a year ago. About 40 percent of acceptors and rejecters said they felt the same.
The study also found that Colorado’s marijuana users were more likely to enjoy the outdoors; 50 percent of users said they liked outdoor recreation, compared to just 36 percent for “rejecters.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study also found that pot users in Colorado were more likely to be fans of fine art and to describe themselves as creative people than non-users.
People who used marijuana were also more likely to say they were “very social” people (36 percent) when compared to acceptors (21 percent) and rejecters (28 percent).
Average annual household incomes for California consumers were between $16,000 and $21,000 higher than acceptors and rejecters, respectively.
BSD Analytics says it believes the study is the first of its kind.
“The ongoing study is the most comprehensive and detailed look at cannabis consumers ever conducted,” the company said.
Colorado is ramping up efforts to try and prevent marijuana from being diverted to the black market. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two bi-partisan bills into law Thursday. “I think we’re protecting neighborhoods from the violence often associated with organized crime,” said Hickenlooper. “We’re no longer the Wild West. I don’t think it’s good for Colorado to have the loosest laws.”
The goal is to crack down on large-scale, non-commercial marijuana grows. State law had allowed medical marijuana patients to grow up to 99 plants if a physician agreed. Recreational users could also have other people grow their plants. Under one of the new laws, people are limited to 12 plants per residence unless a local government approves more. Another new law says only caregivers can grow plants for other people. It also sets up a grant program to reimburse police for enforcing and prosecuting crimes involving marijuana intended for the black market. About $6 million is set aside for the grants and rural areas will get priority for receiving them. Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
Canadian medical experts say legalizing cannabis may offer new hope to one day reduce the use of opioids — powerful drugs frequently prescribed for the treatment of pain.
Dr. Mark Ware, a globally recognized researcher and the vice-chair of the federal government’s task force on legalizing marijuana, says a legal framework for cannabis will help to facilitate further research.
He said published scientific research already suggests cannabinoid molecules interact with the brain in a way that has an important “synergy” with how opioids interact with receptors in the body.
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“This appears to be a very profound affect,” he said. “Research suggests there are important interactions between the two systems.”
U.S. states that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes have also reported lower rates of deaths by opioid overdose, he added, noting what is lacking now is clinical studies to definitively say a patient on a high-dose opioid could use a cannabinoid to reduce their dose.
“That’s the challenge we have — to take this interesting possibility and explore it,” Ware said.