Although marijuana use is still prohibited by federal law in the United States, the drug is now legal for medicinal and/or recreational use in 29 states. On January 1st, 2018, marijuana in California officially became legal for recreational use. Anyone aged 21 or older can now buy, possess and use the drug legally—at least on the state level. Right around the same time, however, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a policy that provided some protection for the fledgling marijuana industries of those states. Where does all of this leave people who use the drug—and is the marijuana industry poised to become the next Big Tobacco?
A Brief History of Marijuana in California
The battle over legalized marijuana in California stretches back several decades. In 1972, in fact, California became the first state to attempt to legalize the drug. Proposition 19 failed after 66.5 percent of voters rejected it. In 1996, however, voters in the state passed Proposition 215, which legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Voters weren’t quite ready to pass legalized recreational pot in 2010, when 54 percent of them opposed Proposition 19. That finally came to pass in 2016, however, with the passage of Proposition 64.
The Federal-State Disconnect Regarding Marijuana
While many U.S. states have relaxed their laws regarding marijuana, the drug has remained illegal on the federal level. However, an Obama-era policy was put in place that discouraged federal prosecutors from bringing charges in places where marijuana is legal by state law, and this allowed operators and users in those states to breathe a bit easier. During his campaign, President Trump repeatedly promised not to use federal authority to shut down sales of recreational marijuana, but his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, appears to disagree with the Commander in Chief; he had the policy rescinded earlier this year. Even so, it appears to have been done more to incite fear than to actually crack down on marijuana sales in states where it has been made legal.
The Next Big Tobacco?
Even proponents of the legalization of marijuana are concerned about how the process appears to be unfolding, including the potential for Big Marijuana. As long as the drug remains illegal federally, the industry will remain understandably hampered. Already, however, many major tobacco companies are making moves that suggest that they will be ready to pounce if and when federal restrictions are lifted. Should this come to pass, the marijuana industry could easily become as predatory and harmful as Big Tobacco.
There have already been many signs of the potential for Big Marijuana. For example, in Colorado, where the drug has been legal for some time, Governor John Hickenlooper attempted to pass a bill that would require marijuana magazines with cartoon ads and coupons for $1 joints to be kept behind the counter. The legal pot industry there sued and won, raising concerns about the industry’s potential for targeting children. It could be that the industry will follow Big Tobacco’s lead, which involved getting people hooked while they were young—and this could have disastrous effects for public health.
Even if Legal, Marijuana Use Can Prompt Serious Short- and Long-Term Side Effects
There is no question that public attitudes regarding marijuana use have shifted dramatically over the last few decades. In fact, as more and more states jump on the legalization bandwagon, public discourse seems to focus more on why the drug shouldn’t be illegal than on its many potential side effects. Given that the legal pot industry is poised to follow Big Tobacco’s lead by targeting young people and otherwise using underhanded marketing tactics to ensure strong profits, it is more important than ever for people to be aware of the potential consequences of using it.
Occasional, short-term use of marijuana may prompt these and other side effects:
- short-term memory issues
- reduced reaction time
- sexual problems
- reduced coordination
When used regularly over the long term, marijuana can cause symptoms such as:
- poor performance at work or school
- impaired ability to learn and perform complex tasks
- antisocial behavior
- decline in IQ
- financial difficulties
With clear signs that the tobacco industry is prepared to pivot into marijuana distribution should federal legalization occur, it is more crucial than ever to educate people about the potential risks of marijuana use. While drug dealers are often blamed for pushing their wares onto innocent people, the marketing savvy of Big Tobacco is far more worrisome from the standpoint of addiction. As the drug becomes more and more legal and accessible, the risks associated with using it are sure to be more and more obscured by powerful interests—and this could create a new wave of addicted people.
Marijuana Treatment is Offered By Rehabs in California
California has historically had some of the laxest laws concerning marijuana, and the state is now one of just a handful where people can legally use the drug for recreational purposes. Although people often associate rehab with addictions to substances like alcohol and opiates, it is often just as necessary and useful for dealing with addictions to marijuana. With the use of marijuana being more and more normalized, it is crucial for people to understand that help is available. Ocean Hills Recovery is one of the rehabs in California that offers such help, so please contact us if you are looking for it.