After vicious debate over the position marijuana is to take in our society, it's time we set the record straight. In particular, it's high time we dispel a growing fear that our younger generation has increasingly used — and more terrifyingly — abused, marijuana.
In reality, a recently released Gallup poll has found that "Even as Americans' support for legalizing marijuana has doubled, and more than 20 states have loosened marijuana restrictions in various ways … [there is] relatively little increase in the percentage of U.S. adults who say they have tried marijuana. 38% percent of Americans admit to having tried marijuana, compared with 34% in 1999 and 33% in 1985." As the majority of young adults who tried marijuana in the 1970s replace older Americans who never did try the drug, the rate of total Americans who have ever tried the drug has increased only slightly, regardless of the fears of a much older generation.
Actually, those who fear the loss of this generation's purity should take a look back at their own cultural history, when marijuana usage skyrocketed in the 1970s, rising from 4% in 1969 to 12% in 1973 and 24% in 1977.
Since its peak at 56% of young experimenting adults in 1977, marijuana use among young adults has actually followed a slow, but noticeable, decline. In fact, marijuana usage coincidentally jumped the same time President Nixon declared the United States "War on Drugs" in 1971.
Interestingly, though the general rate of use has been the same, the demographic patterns for Americans' past experimentation with marijuana and current use have changed. Gender use has evened out, with 8% of men and 6% of women saying they smoke pot. More liberals (49%) have tried marijuana than moderates (40%) and conservatives (32%). Likely the most stereotyped and shocking of drug demographics is that "There are relatively minor differences in marijuana use by race — between whites and nonwhites — and by education. There are no income-related differences among those who say they have tried marijuana, but lower-income Americans are the most likely to say they currently use it."
Rather than an issue of race, this reflects the higher percentage of young adults who say they smoke marijuana, given that younger people report relatively lower household income figures.
Ultimately, from what the facts show us, Americans' support for legalizing marijuana has only grown to a record-high 50%, even though the actual use of the drug has not. With more institutional support from popular officials, including former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, calling for legalization, and an astounding 70% who favor its medical use, pressure may build to bring the nation's laws into compliance with the people's wishes.