Nearly a decade into legalization, July saw a flurry of reflection on what it's meant

click to enlarge Nearly a decade into legalization, July saw a flurry of reflection on what it's meant
91.6 percent of cannabis users partake in other substances, like the occasional glass of wine.

Americans took a good look at their relationship with cannabis over the final days of July. These stories show that we're learning more about how we consume the drug, how we feel about its presence in our society and how our legal system has failed at it in the past.

A study by researchers from the University of Washington published July 22 in the Journal of Cannabis Research took a look at substance consumption patterns among Americans who use cannabis. They found that among Americans who reported consuming cannabis within the past 30 days, only 8.4 percent consumed no other psychoactive substances, which includes illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco and prescription medications used in a way not prescribed by a doctor.

These results might seem to paint a picture that cannabis users are substance-abuse fiends. However, the methodology employed means that someone who reported smoking a joint within the past month, and also reported enjoying a glass of wine with dinner on occasion, falls in the 91.6 percent of cannabis users who use more than just cannabis.

In editorials published in 2012, 2014 and 2018, the USA Today Editorial Board gave its opinion on legalization, and each time the board came down against it. This past weekend, however, the board reversed course and expressed its opinion that federal prohibition does more harm than good.

In its 2022 editorial, the board cited the economic impact, the dramatic shift in public opinion from split to overwhelmingly in favor, the racial inequities of prohibition and the declining use among minors in legal states — which was a concern the board had worried about in previous opinions against legalization — as reasons why it's time to end the federal ban.

Just a week after a legalization bill was introduced in the Senate, U.S. Reps. Troy Carter, D-La., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill., introduced the bipartisan Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act in the House. While it would not go so far as to legalize cannabis, this legislation would open up a process for those charged with federal cannabis-related misdemeanors to have their records expunged.

"These misdemeanors — even without a conviction — can result in restrictions to people's ability to access educational aid, housing assistance, occupational licensing and even foster parenting," Carter said in a statement.

"We must ensure that our criminal justice system keeps pace so that individuals with low-level misdemeanor violations related to its use does not preclude them from getting jobs and participating in society," Davis added. ♦

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