Marijuana: The Big Picture

By March 16, 2015 Recent News

Focus on the Family March 2015
The issue of marijuana ― particularly the legalization of medical and recreational uses ― is a topic of significant discussion in many circles. As Christians, we need to think carefully about this issue and how the legalization and use of marijuana will affect the safety of our children and communities.

More than 23 states have allowed for the use of medical marijuana in recent years. As more states look at loosening laws on the sale and use of marijuana, we need to take a close look at the effect this drug has on the states where it has become more legally accessible.

In 2013, Colorado and Washington State took the unprecedented step of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia quickly followed suit. Not even two years later, we’re beginning to see a disturbing preview of what may be in store for other states that follow their lead.

But before we take a closer look at the Rocky Mountain state as a case study, we need to understand the basic facts of marijuana use, the push and pitfalls associated with its legalization, and how marijuana use is affecting our population and criminal justice system.

Would Making Marijuana Legal Make It Less Used By Kids?

  • Not surprisingly, legal drugs are used far more often than illegal ones because of their accessibility and availability. Take for instance alcohol versus tobacco. According to some surveys, alcohol is used by 52 percent of Americans, while tobacco is only used by 27 percent. Marijuana, on the other hand, is used by only 8 percent of Americans.[1] The reason for the percentage disparities? Legal restrictions. These numbers may shift significantly, if we continue to see the legalization of marijuana across the states, or at the federal level.
  • The availability of alcohol and cigarettes has a similar impact on teenagers. According to data from a 2012 survey on substance abuse, alcohol and cigarettes were the most readily accessible substances for youth, ages 12 to 17, to obtain (50 percent and 44 percent, respectively reporting that they could obtain them within a day).
  • To date, marijuana has been a different story and its illegal status likely impacts its availability:  Youth were least likely to report that they could get marijuana within a day (31 percent); 45 percent report they would be unable to get marijuana at all.[2]
  • In all likelihood, we are seeing the creation of a new “big tobacco-type” industry, as large amounts of money continue to be spent to make marijuana legal. . And, as tobacco wanes in social acceptability, marijuana is poised to replace it ― especially where kids are concerned.
  • To learn more about the social costs of marijuana legalization, as seen in Colorado, read our in-depth article, “The Marijuana Industry: Growing Like a Weed,” originally featured in the September 2014 issue of Citizen magazine.