Who Uses Marijuana?

While our focus is on legal medical marijuana use, we like to look at the spectrum of illegal usage from time to time as well, which is why a report by Reuters last August is fascinating. Why? Because while we know young people are the most frequent pot smokers, the age group that is gaining the most users is actually the baby boomers – people aged 50-59 who apparently have never recognized that Woodstock was over decades ago.

Specifically, the rates of people in the 50-59-year-old age group who copped to toking within twelve months of being asked nearly doubled from 5.1% five years ago to 9.4% in 2007, while there are the same or fewer users in all the other age groups, at least according to the survey which was conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Eric Broderick, acting administrator of SAMHSA said, “These findings show that many in the Woodstock generation continue to use illicit drugs as they age. This continued use poses medical risks to these individuals and is likely to put further strains on the nation’s healthcare system — highlighting the value of preventing drug use from ever starting.”

The findings in question came from a number of surveys which included 16,656 men and women who participated in the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health between 2002 and 2007. It examined the use of many drugs, including cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, marijuana, and even the non-medical use of prescription drugs.

Other statistics show that about 20% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 admit to using “illicit drugs” though that’s falling slowly (20.2 in 2002, 19.8 in 2006, 19.7 in 2007). Teenagers (aged 12 to 17) are using less, with 11.6 of them using drugs in 2002, and only 9.5 in 2007, with 6.7 percent of them choosing marijuana over other drugs.

Despite the fact that marijuana use is illegal in the United States, though it’s been approved for medical use in fourteen states, at least 100 million Americans have tried it at least once, at least according to government estimates. That includes President Obama, whose autobiography describes his youthful experimentation with both marijuana and cocaine.

Last May, the President appointed a “drug czar” in the form of Gil Kerlikowske, who plans to channel more funds toward addiction treatment and scale down the “war on drugs” language commonly bandied about.

However, it’s still extremely unlikely that the White House will ever legalize pot. Says Kerlikowske to Reuters reporters over the summer, “The discussion about legalization is not a part of the president’s vocabulary under any circumstances and it’s not a part of mine.”

Still, isn’t it interesting that the very demographic gaining marijuana users is the one fighting against legalization?

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