Should marijuana be legalized? This is a big question that has been in local and national headlines for quite some time now. With more states decriminalizing and even legalizing marijuana, the fact still remains that both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana is illegal under federal law. So what do past studies tell us about what we really think about marijuana legalization?
Age, Religiosity and Gender influences
Medicinal marijuana use has been dated back to around 2000 B.C. when Egyptians used it as a cure for sore eyes, inflammation and other ailments (ProCon). The Compassionate Use Act (1996) made medicinal marijuana legal with a prescription from a physician in order to treat severe illnesses such as cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, glaucoma, arthritis, migraines and other sicknesses. Sixteen other states followed California in the legalization of medicinal marijuana including Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona and Delaware being the latest to join in 2011 (White-house). As many patients have experienced the illnesses listed above, which include multiple sclerosis and arthritis, a plausible solution would be medical marijuana. Medicinal marijuana versus recreational marijuana is used as a therapeutic remedy for these illnesses and is supposed to be carefully administered just as any other prescription medication from a verified dispensary or caregiver. Recreational use of marijuana is still illegal under federal law; yet fourteen states have decriminalized it, reducing possession of certain amount of the substance from imprisonment to a fine (Scott, 2010). The federal-state debate on the issue of both medical and recreational use of marijuana continues today. Citizens have been questioned if marijuana should be legalized and the debate is likely to continue to show up in more states.
A recent study examined 164 teens ranging from ages 14-18 years old about the use of medical marijuana, and found that 74% of the group used marijuana not personally prescribed to them (Dallas, 2012). So although the marijuana is not personally recommended for them, many teens are still finding ways to use it. Additionally, a poll conducted in 2004 by AARP revealed that 72% of Americans over the age of 45 approve the sanctioning of medical marijuana (Marshall, 2005). Younger generations seem to relate the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes with justification of its use recreationally, even though it is still illegal under federal law. Hadaway, Elifson, and Petersen (1984), showed that religiosity and connection to the church had a substantial effect on marijuana use. Those that attend church services more often may be more likely to find the use of recreational marijuana immoral. Many doctors and oncologists would prescribe medical marijuana for its successes in regulating muscle spasms and nausea, as well as aiding hunger issues for AIDS and cancer patients. Organizations such as The Physician’s Association for AIDS Care and The National Lymphoma Foundation have even gone to the length of suing the Drug Enforcement Administration in a struggle that favors medical marijuana. Yet, other renowned organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the American Glaucoma Society and the American Medical Association have not acknowledged any evidence that marijuana is actually a medicine (Zeese & Ruzzamenti, 1993). In 1982, the Centers for Disease Control published the Surgeon General’s warning on marijuana, listing effects such as weakened immune system, reduced sperm count and sperm motility, along with short-term memory.
While the legalization of medical marijuana has been fulfilled in numerous states, and continues to remain a controversial issue between federal and state levels, the purpose of this paper is to use past studies to show how much age, religious preference, and gender influence perspective on legalizing marijuana.
While most of Americans have steadily rejected the legalization of marijuana that has gradually changed over the years as public support has increased. A 2005 Gallop poll investigating opinions on legalization of marijuana was directed via telephone interview and reviewed by Stern and DiFonzo (2009). The interview was conducted with a total of 2,034 men and women 18 years and older, and the results were compared to previous poll outcomes in initial surveys on the subject, beginning in the 1960s. In total, only 12% of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana in 1969 and by the year 2000 it jumped to 31%. In 2005, approximately a third of Americans backed the legalization of the substance (Stern & DiFonzo, 2009).
The results showed that generally, younger Americans, ages 18 to 29, are split, as about 47% decide marijuana should be legal, while 50% oppose its legalization. Backing for legalizing the substance is much lower with older adults with those ages 30 to 64 showing 35% in favor, and those ages 65 and older, showing 22% in favor (Stern & DiFonzo, 2009). It can be concluded from the reviewed results, that younger generations are more supportive of the legalization of marijuana than older generations.
In an analysis on teenage religiosity and marijuana use over time, researchers studied whether religiosity foretold long-term use of marijuana use and if modifications in religiosity foretold changes in its use over time. The data used in this study was initially collected from five waves of a correlational research study conducted by the National Youth Survey on youths residing in the United States. This longitudinal study was conducted from 1976 to 1980 on 1,725 participating youths. On Wave III, the youths were ages 13 to 19 years and by Wave VII, they were ages 22 to 28 years old (Desmond, Kikuchi, & Budd, 2010).
Church presence was calculated on a scale fluctuating from 4, equaling several times a week to 0, equaling never. Furthermore, the capacity of importance of religion in the participants’ lives was measured on a scale ranging from 4, meaning very important to 0, meaning not important at all. The two measurements were combined ranging the religiosity of the youths from 0 to 8, 4.4 being the mean. Latent growth curve modeling was used to investigate the association with adolescent religiosity and changes in marijuana use over time (Desmond, Kikuchi, & Budd, 2010).
The results implied that religious adolescents are less likely to use marijuana in the first place, and compared to nonreligious adolescents, show less increases in marijuana use over time. Interestingly, the results suggested that extremely religious youngsters were unlikely to experience any rise in marijuana use over time. Yet, changes in religiosity are considerably linked to changes in marijuana use. When youth religiosity rises, marijuana use decreases, and vice versa (Desmond, Kikuchi, Budd, 2010).
This study strongly suggests that religiosity is a central variable in calculating the trajectory of marijuana use from youth to early adulthood. It can be assumed that religiosity performs as a defensive influence that prevents adolescents from using or supporting marijuana use.
Dr. Linda Sax (2010) has analyzed trends of health attitudes amid college students in order to further the data for other health researchers as well as provide knowledge for those administering healthcare for college students. The study includes gender differences in attitudes on whether marijuana should be legalized or not. The survey results are based on an annual survey of college freshmen taken in 1995 at academic institutions nationwide.
Nearly 250,000 full-time college freshmen at about 500 countrywide, 2-4 year public and private higher education colleges and universities participated in the annual survey (Sax, 2010). Of the 1995 survey participants, 46% were male, and 54%, female. The survey did not ask whether the student has ever used marijuana, but rather asked about their view on legalizing the substance: it asked whether they agreed or disagreed in legalizing marijuana. The survey was given to the college freshmen in paper form. As a result, the survey showed that 38.3% of men support marijuana legalization, while only 30% of women do; implying women are less likely than men to support legalizing marijuana (Sax, 2010).
From this literature review, one can recognize that age, religious preference, and gender are all factors that could possibly affect one’s standpoint on legalizing medicinal use of marijuana.
Stern and DiFonzo revealed that not only has marijuana support among Americans increased over time, but that younger generations favor its legalization. In Desmond, Kikuchi, and Budd’s study of religiosity and marijuana use over time, research shows that youths who are more involved with their religion are less likely to use, or support marijuana. Finally, in Dr. Sax’s study and conducted surveys, it was found that women are less likely to favor the legalization of marijuana than men.
As society has changed, the medicinal and even recreational use of marijuana is still being debated in many states. Age, gender and religiousness are only three factors that must be considered in analyzing population view on legalization. Social and cultural aspects would have to be included as influential factors. Maybe in future studies, we will get a clearer view of the connection between these factors and general population outlook on legalization. Or maybe our government will just get over themselves and finally hit the joint so peace and love can prevail.
Center for Disease Control. (1982, August 13). The Surgeon General’s Warning on Marijuana. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 31(31), 428-9. Retrieved from (http://www.cdc.gov).
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Dallas, M.E. (2012). ‘Diverted’ Medical Marijuana Use Common Among Teens: Study. Healthday. Retrieved from (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus).
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Hadaway, C.K., Elifson K.W., & Petersen D.M. (1984, June). Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Wiley-Blackwell, 23(2), 109-128.
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