Marijuana is consumed most often by those who can least afford the consequences — and the cost. That’s a shocker, right? (Not really.)
A new study finds that those who are considered poor — meaning they have family incomes under $25,000, or have a high school diploma or less — account for a disproportionate number of marijuana users in the U.S.
“Users of marijuana are downscale in terms of education and income, resembling users of cigarettes rather than alcohol,” the research found.
Researchers found that the average person with a high school diploma or less was consuming marijuana twice as often as the average college graduate. “Despite the popular stereotypes of marijuana users as well-off and well-educated, we find that with respect to educational attainment and household income, they [the regular users] lag behind national averages,” the report said.
“There’s a myth that things that don’t kill you aren’t bad for you, but that’s not true,” said Jonathan Caulkins, professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Caulkins co-authored the new study, which appeared last week in Journal of Drug Issues.
“There can be things that have near-zero risk of killing you, but that can still be very disruptive to normal life functioning, and that’s what marijuana is. This really isn’t a mortality issue. It’s a performance issue. [Marijuana] isn’t a performance enhancer — it’s a performance degrader,” Caulkins told LifeZette.
Over the past decade, there’s been a remarkable liberalization of marijuana policies in many parts of the U.S. Because of this, the team analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for changes that coincided in the marijuana market from 2002 to 2013.
Caulkins and his colleague, Steven Davenport, Ph.D., an assistant policy analyst with RAND in Santa Monica, California, found that “users of marijuana are downscale in terms of education and income, resembling users of cigarettes rather than alcohol.” Caulkins warned this has nothing to do with race. Rather, it’s purely a growing issue predominantly among the poor and uneducated.
[lz_bulleted_list title=”Cannabis Use in U.S.” source=”http://www.jod.sagepub.com”]Daily or near-daily users over 21 without any college education spend nearly 8% of their household income on marijuana — nearly triple what adult users in college spend (2.6%) and twice the national average (4%).|DND users over 21 without any college education = 4.5 million people.[/lz_bulleted_list]
“The acute intoxication effects are something that nobody denies. It’s just that people don’t recognize them because most of the people who use [pot] manage to not be intoxicated when they’re supposed to be showing up for work. It’s a skew — a small number of users dominate consumption and a lot of them self-report that it does interfere with work and social interaction and school and so on. Four million people report enough problems that their cannabis use meets the criteria for cannabis use disorder — or abuse and dependence,” said Caulkins.
Daily and near-daily users report averaging between three and four joints a day, something that would make anyone’s intellectual tasks a challenge, Caulkins said. Daily or near-daily (DND) users have increased sevenfold since 1992 and now account for roughly 75 percent of reported total spending on the drug.
“Studies have shown that when people are high, they don’t do as well on memory and problem-solving tasks. DND users are intoxicated for a substantial portion of their life. Acute intoxication means they’re spending a lot of time that should be their work or school time, intoxicated — under the influence,” said Caulkins.
The study also found that the typical purchase has gotten smaller by weight but not price paid, suggestive of a trend toward higher potency.
Caulkins and Davenport hope their research helps guide policymakers and the public “by providing objective information to counter all of the lies of the advocates,” said Caulkins.
Four states have now legalized recreational marijuana and about two dozen other states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. It all comes as advocates paint a very rosy picture of how well it’s going, despite the federal government’s recent that marijuana will remain a Schedule I drug. There is also an increasing number of drugged driving accidents, a growing black market for marijuana exports in states where the drug is legal, and a steady rise in hospital visits due to overdoses — especially on edibles and among children.
More infants are also being born with THC in their system. And all of this is happening as numerous other states consider legalization.
If that happens, and prices for marijuana were to further drop, Caulkins and Davenport believes it’s likely “that many of the patterns identified herein would continue to trend (and perhaps accelerate) in the current direction.”