Not Your Grandmother’s Joint: Here’s How Marijuana Use is Changing

It’s not hard to see how some parts of American culture are light years ahead of where they were just a few decades ago. While our grandparents couldn’t text, call, or email one another, today there are dozens of social media apps that find almost infinite ways to connect you to your friends and paramours. Drugs have changed too. We tend to think about all kinds of drugs, including marijuana, as staying essentially the same over time. But the last few decades have changed the face of marijuana use in the United States in more ways than one.

Most significantly, a study recently published in the August edition of the Journal of Drug Issues showed that across the board more people are using marijuana at levels unheard of in previous generations. Specifically, while the study found that the overall market for marijuana has increased from 2002 to 2013, the group of regular users who reported consuming marijuana on a daily basis has skyrocketed from almost one in ten to one in three users. Moving beyond initial stereotypes informed by misinformation and hysteria, the extent and prevalence of its use means that marijuana can no longer be dismissed.

The shift in the marketplace for marijuana from transactions that take place primarily in social contexts to more professional exchanges in medical marijuana clinics or recreational use shops is another interesting development over the last ten years. Instead of using marijuana in purely social contexts that don’t necessarily require everyone consuming it to buy it, more people are choosing to purchase marijuana independently from businesses, rather than going through a friend of a friend.

What does it really mean that marijuana is being bought in a retail setting? Placing these shifts in the context of alcohol, a more socially acceptable and legal drug, can help clarify its significance. Instead of only drinking in social environments, with friends on the weekends at a bar or club, this transition in marijuana use and procurement makes it more closely resemble the cache of beers many people keep stocked in their refrigerators as religiously as milk or orange juice; a staple of daily life to have on hand in case you want it.

Further, the potency of marijuana has changed significantly. Researchers analyzing data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that while the average amount of marijuana obtained in a single purchase has decreased, the price of that purchase has stayed somewhat constant. The study authors think this shift in the typical purchase may reflect a more potent product, indicating marijuana with much higher THC contents.

Some aspects of marijuana use aren’t changing, though. Frequent use of marijuana can have a pervasive and negative impact on developing brains, particularly for users under twenty-five. Additionally, daily use of any drug can suggest an unhealthy dependence on it as a coping mechanism to combat the everyday anxieties of life.

If you or someone you know is concerned about their level of drug use, seek out help from a professional therapist or drug counselor in your area. Everyone needs help from time to time, whether you’re seventeen or seventy-two.