Since 2012, the world of marijuana has been changing at a dizzying speed, and this year was no different. If 2014 was a watershed moment for the legalization movement, 2015, despite its bumps and bruises (looking at you, Ohio) was the year marijuana showed off its staying power. Here’s a look at the best data from the year!
Grandparents Just Don’t Understand
This year marked the third in a row that a majority of Americans favored marijuana legalization, according to Gallup polling, which recorded support at 58 percent. At least 50 percent of all age groups support legalization, save for those 65 years and older, but here's to hoping that age demographic is called the silent generation for a reason.
The Old Safe Try
Even with legalization's high polling, Pew Research found that while about half of all Americans have tried marijuana in their lifetime, only 12 percent toked up in the past year. Many factors other than use could be driving marijuana's support, but it’s worth noting that the view of pot as a safe recreational choice has become more prevalent in 2015. Almost 70 percent of Americans, including President Obama believe that it is less harmful than alcohol.
Menace to Society?
According to Pew Research, 82 percent of Americans don’t mind people using marijuana at home, but 62 percent of them don’t want people smoking in public. And a slightly smaller group, 57 percent, wouldn’t mind if a marijuana retailer opened up in their neighborhood. So what does this mean for Alaska, which changed the definition of “public” to allow for on-site consumption when pot retailers open in 2016? Only time will tell.
Politics as Unusual
Given the flurry of pro-pot activity in Congress this year, it's clear that marijuana support is not as politically radioactive as it once was. Centrist think tank Third Way says the change of environment is because of support beyond the core pro-legalization demographic to what it calls "the marijuana middle," a group that skews female, Republican and elderly, with the majority over the age of 50. Though 54 percent of this group disapproves of legalization, around two-thirds say only states should decide on legalization and that Congress should give legalized states protection from federal law, so long as their markets are heavily regulated.
The Trick Dick's War Never Tried
Legalization was always one of the untested strategies in President Nixon's ongoing War on Drugs, but there’s evidence that state legalization is already eroding drug cartels' market share. According to DEA data, marijuana seizures have dropped 37 percent since 2011, falling to under 1,500 kilograms for the first time in at least five years in 2014. And Time Magazine reports that the Mexican army confiscated only 664 tons of marijuana in 2014, a 32 percent drop from the previous year.
Is the DEA D.O.A.?
The fall in illicit marijuana trafficking is turning some heads in Washington. Earlier this year, the House voted to cut the DEA's budget by $23 million and move $9 million out of the $18 million budget for the agency's Cannabis Reduction and Eradication program. Should the cuts make it in Congress's final appropriations bill, they will have a significant impact, given that the program, according to The Washington Post, spends between $4.20 and $60 uprooting each marijuana plant. In 2015, the program is set to pay Oregon police $750,000 alone to remove marijuana crops across the state. Though perhaps that’s a better use of money than drug cartel-funded sex parties, spying on people’s Instagram and decrying the dangers of stoned rabbits.
Smoked More than Seen in Colorado
Recreational marijuana is not as ubiquitous in Colorado as one might think: only 72 of its 321 districts allow licensing, and Denver accounts for 60 percent of all sales. But you could be forgiven for thinking differently when looking at the numbers: During 2014, recreational plants in Colorado jumped nearly nine-fold from 24,767 in January to 216,802 in December. Over the year, Colorado residents smoked up to 19 tons, chow downed on around 2.8 million edibles and forked out around $313 million for it all.
How the West Was Won
Washington made $62 million to Colorado's $44 million in recreational marijuana taxes in the first year of operations, though its $250 million in recreational sales was less than Colorado's $313 million. But the state's high pot tax has some questioning whether cash-strapped Washingtonians will turn to the black market or neighboring Oregon, which isn't wasting time enticing them. Though its retail market isn't operational until 2016, Oregon's medical dispensaries offer tax-free recreational marijuana sales from Oct 1 to January 4, 2016. So it was no surprise when the state reported $11 million in sales during its first week, and $3.5 million alone on opening day, besting Colorado's first week sales of $5 million and Washington's first month sales of $2 million.
Teenage Riots (Not Really)
According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of current marijuana users hit new highs in people 18 years of age and older when Colorado and Washington’s retail markets went live. But marijuana use among those aged 12 to 17 that year held steady at around 7.4 percent, a 0.3 percent rise from 2013, but still a long way from 2011's high of 7.9 percent. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy noticed a similar trend: marijuana use among students from grade 6 to 12 was unchanged from 2013. So take note naysayers—adults are killing kid’s contact highs.
(Photo Courtesy of College.USAToday.com)