Once it was assumed that only delinquents, rebels, and those in college wanting to experiment were the ones to use recreational marijuana. After all, for many decades weed has been illegal and it has been thought of as the gateway drug to other harder and more dangerous drugs.
As they say, times are changing. Many adults who are perfectly respectable people use marijuana. Many of those use it for medical purposes, but there are some who do like to use it recreationally too. More research has been done in the last few years than ever before and this “evil weed” is no longer considered so evil.
We’ll be looking into using marijuana recreationally and what the benefits and risks are as well as what the law has to say about it.
Recreational Marijuana Basics
Recreational marijuana use is on the rise. It’s also becoming easier to buy and there are even marijuana businesses in some states where commercial sales are allowed. People no longer have to meet a drug dealer on a corner or get it from that dubious someone sneakily selling it in the workplace or college or school.
States Where Recreational Marijuana is Legal
While there are many states where medical cannabis is permitted, to date only a few states actually allow it to be used recreationally:
- Washington D.C
Be sure to check out the laws of your particular state as they vary.
The History of Recreational Marijuana
Marijuana actually has quite a long history and has been grown and used for centuries. We know that it has been around since at least 500 BC because cannabis seeds have been found in the graves of shamans of China and Siberia from that era. It took a long time to become the demonized drug that became outlawed early in the 1900’s.
The cannabis plant was used for practical purposes as well as recreational use when it was discovered. In addition to the discoveries mentioned above, it has been used for the following purposes throughout history:
- Material for clothing
The seeds were also used in some cultures as food just as some of us eat hemp seeds today because of their health benefits (they contain protein, omega 3, and iron).
Earlier strains of weed had very little THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is responsible for getting people high. Somehow, even as far back as then, it’s suggested that they may have started producing cannabis plants that contained higher THC concentrates.
They used these strains as medicine because of the pain-relieving properties of THC. But they also used it in religious ceremonies and rituals. Recreationally, it may have been used by people from the Middle East, but other than that, its use for getting high was not very popular until much later.
Marijuana Use in the Early U.S.
In the 1800’s cannabis was grown widely to support the war. Even George Washington grew marijuana. Because of the practical uses of the hemp, it was a very popular crop back then.
Recreational use in North America only started in the early 1900’s. People from Mexico had started immigrating to the U.S. and had introduced the use of marijuana plants to get high. This started to spark fear in people and eventually by 1931 more than half of the states had passed the law making marijuana illegal.
Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
In 1937 with the passing of the marihuana (marijuana) tax act, the illegal status of weed was made national. This federal law imposed an excise tax on all uses of marijuana that were not for industrial use. Recreational cannabis products, cannabis possession, growing it, and its use was criminalized.
Industrial hemp production also slowly ground to halt and there were no longer any farms that grew the cannabis plant after 1957.
Recent Legalization and Decriminalization
The late 80’s and early 90’s finally saw some states allowing the use of medical marijuana. The Compassionate Use Act in California only came into being in 1996. Prior to this, starting in the 70’s, there had been people advocating for it to be legalized partially and for marijuana penalties to be minimized but this largely failed.
In states where medical use is legal, you need a medical marijuana card which allows you to go to marijuana dispensaries where you will be dispensed only what you need for a specific amount of time.
The fight to decriminalize recreational marijuana use has also been going on through the decades and finally in 2012 two states legalized it (Colorado and Washington) and it was monitored in the same way as alcohol. Since then more states have followed suit to the point where in 2018 we now have 9 states where recreational use is legal.
The federal law still stands however and while law enforcement is less strict in pursuing those who sell and use weed these days, you can still get arrested under federal law for cultivating, using, or being in possession of recreational pot.
Health Benefits of Recreational Marijuana
The very reason that pot is now being legalized is that it does actually have proven health benefits and while there are still health risks, they are fewer than if you were drinking alcohol. Potential benefits include:
Most people who have used weed have experienced the munchies. For those struggling with their appetite, this can be very helpful. What’s more is that despite the increase in caloric intake, marijuana users still tend to be able to maintain a lower weight.
Along with pain-relieving properties, the fact that weed helps with nausea too is one of the main reasons it’s prescribed to chemo patients. It also helps to relieve muscle spasms and bring down inflammation so it may be helpful for aches and pains.
May Help Control Seizures
In June this year, the drug Epidiolex was approved. It uses CBD (cannabidiol, which are beneficial compounds derived from hemp plants) with none of the THC to relieve seizures. Smoking pot may be helpful for some too.
Could Decrease Anxiety
In small doses, pot may help to relieve anxiety. The dosage equates to a few puffs but may vary from person to person.
Can Help Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Often people have a drink to relax and be social, but pot can do the same in a less harmful way. It’s important to mention that someone prone to addiction or in the throes of alcoholism can become addicted to weed so it would not necessarily help with addiction problems.
Joy and Relaxation
Feeling joyful and relaxed is a common side effect of smoking or ingesting weed. For this reason, it can be helpful for managing stress and can be a fun addition when you socialize.
Risks Associated with Recreational Marijuana Use
Though there are fewer risks when using marijuana when compared to alcohol, there are still risks that people need to be aware of. Adolescent users are at higher risks for many social and mental problems and use should be prevented before adulthood.
Adults fair a little bit better but over the long-term, heavy users are still at a higher risk of many illnesses than those who don’t use at all as explained by Live Science who interpreted the results of this Swedish study that followed men from the age of 18-19 through to the age of 60.
Here are the main problems associated with pot.
Smoking cannabis actually increases lung volume rather than hurting your lungs but more long-term studies still need to be done. Vaping CBD oil is becoming popular, but vaping can be harmful due to toxins in the vaping pens and the oil. Make sure that if you go this route that you always use only high-quality products.
When too much marijuana is used it can cause anxiety instead of relieving it. Some people also just tend to react badly to marijuana and become paranoid or anxious after even very small doses.
Driving While Impaired
Pot lowers your inhibitions and makes your reaction time slower which makes driving while high dangerous for you and your passengers, but public safety too. It’s also against the law to drive while high.
Similarly to DUI, you would be charged with a DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) and will be punished according to the laws of your state. Punishment ranges from fines to jail time, to having your driver’s license suspended.
The Future of Recreational Marijuana in the U.S
With recreational marijuana being legalized in many states over the past year, the question remains, what is the future of recreational marijuana in the U.S.
Current Legislative Efforts to Legalize
Many voters, particularly young voters believe the government should legalize recreational marijuana. There are even those of the older generations that believe this too and the politicians are listening. Many senators are trying to get the ball rolling with legalization in their states.
While it may still take a few years for everyone to get on board as there are still many against it, it certainly seems that weed will be legalized nationwide eventually. The tax revenue from marijuana sales in the future can do the country a lot of good which is another plus for the government.
Decreased Social Stigma
As more research comes out regarding the health benefits of pot and as it becomes legalized, the stigma is slowly fading. More people are starting to see that use does not necessarily equal causing accidents or becoming homeless or indulging in a life of crime. Weed is very quickly becoming the acceptable norm instead of evil as are the people who use it.
While it is important to note that marijuana shouldn’t be abused as it can lead to social, mental, and physical health problems, when it’s used in a controlled manner there are health benefits to be enjoyed.
If you are for legalizing marijuana and for recreational law legislation being amended, get involved in with projects campaigning for weed to be decriminalized in your community or why not start your own?
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