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US Cannabis Use Hits Record Highs Among Adults: Trends & Impacts


By: Juan Sebastian Chaves Gil

The landscape of cannabis in the United States is complex and fragmented. While some state and territorial laws, as well as regulations in Indian Reservations and the District of Columbia, permit the medicinal use of cannabis, both medical and recreational consumption remain illegal at the federal level. Despite this discrepancy between state and federal laws, the Obama Administration chose not to prosecute users in accordance with local laws regarding medicinal and recreational cannabis—a stance that has continued since 2017, when the federal government ceased interfering with state laws regarding medical marijuana.

Internationally, in 2018, several countries, including Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, and certain jurisdictions in the United States, adopted less restrictive laws regarding cannabis. Conversely, nations like China, France, Indonesia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and others maintain stricter laws on the matter.

As for the situation in North America, there has been significant evolution in cannabis regulation in the United States. Throughout the 20th century, federal laws were implemented to penalize its transportation, possession, and distribution, especially with the creation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930. However, the focus did not penalize consumption. The legalization of recreational use in states like Colorado and Washington starting in 2012 marked a significant milestone, followed by other states in subsequent years, such as California, Oregon, Nevada, and Illinois. Despite these state legalizations, cannabis consumption and sales remain illegal at the federal level, leading to tensions and legal challenges.

Legalization has demonstrated a significant economic impact in the United States, generating considerable revenue through taxes, sales, and job creation. This economic growth has been accompanied by stricter regulations to ensure safe and responsible cannabis use. These developments highlight the potential of the cannabis industry to drive economic growth and job creation in the country.

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