The outcome of legalizing marijuana has not had the effect that prohibitionists warned and expected. The behavioral and psychological problems that they feared would follow legalization have not materialized.
Contrary to what prohibitionists tend to assume, the increase in pot-related problems following legalization are not proportional to the increase in consumption. In a recent article, Forbes pointed out that people prone to excess are less likely to be deterred by prohibition than people with more moderate habits.
That being the case, problematic users likely represent a smaller share of cannabis consumers after legalization than they did before, which means marijuana’s benefit-to-cost ratio has improved, Forbes noted.
A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry provides some evidence that as the number of cannabis consumers increases, the percentage of those who experience serious cannabis-related problems will decline.
“With few exceptions, increases in the prevalence of marijuana use disorder between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013 were also statistically significant (P < .05) across demographic subgroups. However, the prevalence of marijuana use disorder among marijuana users decreased significantly from 2001-2002 (35.6%; SE, 1.37) to 2012-2013 (30.6%; SE, 1.04),” the JAMA study said.
Despite the scientific report, most news outlets chose to design their stories around their own logic.
“Marijuana use has more than doubled in the U.S. since the beginning of the century,” NBC News reported, “but so have problems for users.”
Reuters did something similar and Newsweek declared that pot users have doubled in the past decade and that marijuana disorders are bigger than ever.
These alarming reports overlook the good news of the JAMA study.
One of the outcomes we do know for sure is that 30 million Americans are now smoking pot, according to a new survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), also published in the JAMA Psychiatry Report.