Marijuana Use and State Legalization in the United States – Growing Popularity
According to a 2017 Marist/Yahoo Poll of Americans the following statistics emerge:
- 52% have tried marijuana (128,842,329 people)
- 22% of American adults use marijuana (54,510,216 people)
- 14% of American adults use marijuana regularly (34,341,436 people), for which there is little to no research on efficacy, dosing, application, or quality measures. (Note: By contrast, 30 million Americans have diabetes for which there is ample research and well-developed protocols for care.)
- 83% of Americans strongly support the legalization of marijuana. Their chief concern about use is its illegality (quickly changing in states where cannabis is legalized), and they see marijuana as an aid for managing medical problems, reducing pain, or alleviating stress as benefits.
The public acceptance of marijuana use, anticipation of increases in state tax revenues, and redeployment of precious law enforcement resources collectively have resulted in 60% of states (30) legalizing and taxing cannabis for either medical or recreational use.
With state legalization, the cannabis industry is growing and differentiating as is normal to an emerging market. The medicinal marijuana market is the pipeline of new, more targeted medications with increasingly precise dosing and efficacy. Additionally, the quickly expanding recreational market will enable the growth of larger producers and processors, who will develop brand recognition and wider distribution. Along with this will come better tracking and monitoring of product, allowing improved reporting by legal entities.
Between 2016 and 2024, combined medical and recreational sales of marijuana are expected to grow an average 25% per year from $5.7 billion to $37.3 billion, assuming an end to federal regulation in 2020. If the federal government maintains its posture of illegality at the federal level, the market is projected to grow to only $24.5 billion by 2021.
Whether illegal or legalized at the federal level, cannabis use will be one of the fastest growing markets in the US, on a par with crypto-currencies. 60% of states have approved marijuana usage, which has driven and will drive state tax revenues, reduce law enforcement costs, and create new permanent jobs.
Cannabis at the Federal Level – Suppression of research and standards
In 2018, cannabis is considered illegal by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and is listed on their Schedule I. Quoting from the DEA website (emphasis added):
“Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.”
Despite legalization of marijuana use in 30 states, the DEA as of August 11, 2016, rejected two petitions to remove marijuana from Schedule I, again citing lack of evidence for medical use. Further, the stated opposition to marijuana legalization by Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice has suppressed federal funding. “Sessions’ Justice Department has taken a hard line against marijuana. He has said in the past he did not believe marijuana should be legalized, suggesting at an appearance last year that medical marijuana had been ‘hyped, maybe too much.’ His department also has effectively blocked the Drug Enforcement Administration from taking action on more than two dozen requests to grow marijuana for use in research.”
Notably, because cannabis is illegal at the federal level, the vast majority of federal funding for research comes from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which focuses its funding, as the agency’s name implies, on the risks and abuses of cannabis.2Pg20
Further, researchers approved for studies on marijuana by the DEA are:
- Subject to oversight, scrutiny, and limitations by the DEA, FDA, and NIDA which can take up to five years to get a study approved. For example, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) was hindered for over twenty-two years by NIDA and DEA in launching research to study the efficacy of marijuana use in war veterans with PTSD. They received approval to proceed in March 2014. They are now recruiting subjects.
- Highly restricted in what type of research gets approved. According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta “A search through the U.S. National Library of Medicine this past year pulled up nearly 2,000 more recent papers. But the majority were research into the harm of marijuana, such as “Bad trip due to anticholinergic effect of cannabis,” or “Cannabis induced pancreatitis” and “Marijuana use and risk of lung cancer.” In my quick running of the numbers, I calculated about 6% of the current U.S. marijuana studies investigate the benefits of medical marijuana. The rest are designed to investigate harm. That imbalance paints a highly distorted picture.”
- Allowed to test marijuana product from one source only, the University of Mississippi (UM) operating under a contract from NIDA. This contract has been in force since 1968, and designates UM’s School of Pharmacy as the sole facility under government contract to “cultivate, process, store, analyze and distribute cannabis for research.” In 2016, the DEA announced it would accept other sources, but to this date, none have yet been named.
The result of this long-standing federal bias against marijuana use, and scheduling of the substance as highly dangerous and of no medical benefit, has resulted in no standards or protocols or treatment regimens for a product that is being used by almost one quarter of Americans, many of whom are using it on hearsay for unscientifically proven medical benefits.
Aggressive oversight by federal agencies and severe limitation on research study topic and product sourcing amounts to a self-fulfilling prophesy about marijuana’s risks, and prevents innovative testing by thousands of already existing cannabis growers and processors throughout the country who could be appropriate sources for researchers.
Limited use of this sole source for studies (UM) means that no end use research can be conducted on processed cannabis products near, ready, or currently in the market such as topical ointments, gummy bears, or other processed cannabis infused products.
References on Cannabis
 Yahoo News. Weed and The American Family. March 7, 2017. http://maristpoll.marist.edu/yahoo-newsmarist-poll/
 New CDC report: More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. July 18, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0718-diabetes-report.html
 State Marijuana Laws in 2018 Map http://www.governing.com/gov-data/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html
 Green Wave Advisors, The Green Wave Report 2nd Edition, November 2015. http://www.greenwaveadvisors.com/wp-content/uploads/EXECSUMMARYWITHCOVER.pdf
 Projected marijuana consumer market; accessed April 24, 2018; https://www.statista.com/statistics/588809/recreational-medical-marijuana-consumer-market-size-us/
 Zapotosky, M., Horwitz, S., Achenbach, J. Use of legalized marijuana threatened as Sessions rescinds Obama-era directive that eased federal enforcement. The Washington Post, January 4, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/sessions-is-rescinding-obama-era-directive-for-feds-to-back-off-marijuana-enforcement-in-states-with-legal-pot/2018/01/04/b1a42746-f157-11e7-b3bf-ab90a706e175_story.html?utm_term=.7016caa71939
 MAPS website. MAPS has received regulatory approval to conduct a study of smoked marijuana for symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans of war. Accessed April 24, 2018; http://www.maps.org/research/mmj
 Gupta, Sanjay MD. Why I Changed My Mind on Weed. August 8, 2013. https://www.cnn.com/2013/08/08/health/gupta-changed-mind-marijuana/index.html.
 DEA Announces Actions Related to Marijuana and Industrial Hemp; August 11, 2016; https://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2016/hq081116.shtml
 University of Mississippi Marijuana Research NIDA Contract, accessed April 24, 2018; https://pharmacy.olemiss.edu/marijuana/nida-contract/