Taking A Closer Look
The month of April, because of 420 (April 20th), is a celebration within cannabis culture. In the last fifty years 420 has evolved from a code for let’s smoke a joint at 4:20 p.m. to a day that brings people together as a call to action. The day has its fair share of concerts and parties for those who are not afraid to be open about their cannabis use. In recent years, small to mid-scale informational events are held for those who want to learn more about what cannabis can do for their lives. From planting parties with panel discussions to roundtables on how to get a legal medical marijuana card – people are wanting to know.
In the United States, constituents and elected officials continue work against the criminalization of this plant by voting and following through with legislation. As of now 18 states, Washington DC and Guam have fully legalized cannabis for adults, and 38 states have legalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes. That translates into about 145 million people in living in the US have access to some sort of retail marijuana product. It is important to continually mention that marijuana is still illegal as a matter of federal law. Roughly 36 countries and island nations around the world have some form of legalization but when traveling it’s crucial to check the laws to know for certain.
Somewhere between the stoner culture narrative and the plant can save everyone from everything rests the current and potential consumer base. According to a Gallup poll in November 2021, 68% of Americans support legalization of marijuana for adults. Gallup translates that into - two in every three Americans agree with removing the barriers for usage.
Dr William Bartley, primary care and emergency/hospital coverage physician with a background working as a director of a chemical dependency unit, stated that marijuana usage alone isn’t viewed as an addiction threat (like it was decades ago). He goes on to say that 20 years ago it was nowhere near as acceptable in the medical community but was quietly more so viewed as a bad habit opposed to now being seen as effective treatments for those who respond well to it without interruption to their lives. The narrative of the gateway drug was a political approach which found its way into the medical community. He states that he has never had a person admitted to inpatient detox treatment for marijuana usage alone. “The majority of people who were undergoing inpatient treatment were there for addiction to schedule 2 drugs such as opioids, other pain medications and drugs such as cocaine and heroin.” Bartley points out that because of decades of illegalization, past research opportunities were lost. “Imagine where we would be now in the fight against things such as crippling arthritis, mental health struggles and managing certain types of pain, to name a few; had more research opportunities been available.” For many institutions, researchers and patients, legal restraints and lack of money dedicated to cannabis research hindered collecting 20 to 30 years of much needed information that could be used today. Individuals were left filling this void through trial-and-error and sharing of information quietly. The medical community and the individual continue to move towards the same page as additional municipalities come online with legalization, decriminalization creeps forward and stigmas are shattered.
People go to the doctor for three major but simple reasons: they want to fix a problem first, stop a problem from getting worse, or prevent a problem from happening often based on family history. It can be said that people incorporate cannabis into their lives for these same reasons, with an additional reason; they may have tried every other avenue to get help.
Today’s cannabis is not the same as yesterday’s cannabis neither are the consumers. Bartley concludes, “decades ago, people believed the only people who used marijuana were people who weren’t doing anything with their lives and that’s simply not true. Many in the medical community have come to realize more people used marijuana to help themselves - we just didn’t know about it and it never negatively effective their lives. That is still the case today, the difference is more people are talking more openly which lends the cannabis market to presently being a heavily consumer driven space.” This consumer driven space is evident with March 2022 sales tax revenue tapping 11.2 billion for adult-use sales alone according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Retail sales gives us only a glimpse of the consumer picture how many adults are accessing adult-use marijuana, future predictions for retail sales in the coming years are in the tens of billions of dollars. For the person who’s looking to learn about cannabis, have access to consistent products, or not worry about the ramifications of self-guided care the projected profits are not the first order of business. In the meantime, another 420 Day has arrived and for those who believe in and advocate for safe equal access to cannabis products today is the day to let people know it is time to move forward.