The cult classic movie Half Baked, starring Dave Chapelle, does a good job explaining the appeal of recreational marijuana: It can be fun, munchie-inducing, and can melt away the stressors of the day. Sometimes there’s just nothing like unwinding with friends while you pass the dutchie on the left hand side.
However, recreational weed is not federally legal in the United States. While many states have legalized medicinal cannabis, and some have legalized recreational use, this country still has a ways to go before marijuana is as widely accepted and accessible as alcohol. Read on for the current status of the drug in the U.S., some pros and cons for legalization, and what to expect when you take a hit from the bong.
What Is Recreational Marijuana?
Using marijuana recreationally means to use the cannabis sativa plant, or products derived from the plant, for non-medical reasons. Marijuana refers to the dried leaves and flowers of the plant, which contain naturally-occurring chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Recreational marijuana tends to contain high levels of the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), since it acts on the body and brain to produce a “high”.
Often, recreational marijuana is used by folks looking to have a good time, since it can reduce people into fits of giggles and enhance the senses. Movies can become more interesting and food can taste even better. Sometimes, feelings of euphoria or blissful joy arise. While the effects vary depending on the person, situation and product, many consider using cannabis to be an enjoyable experience.
Like medical cannabis, recreational marijuana can be consumed in a variety of forms. It can be smoked in joints or bongs; inhaled using vaporisers; infused with oils to be used in cooking; or eaten as edibles, which can be purchased at dispensaries.
Effects of Recreational Marijuana Use
There are many symptoms of marijuana use, which vary based on factors such as the specimen of weed, potency of the product used (generally measured by the amount of THC in a product), physiological differences of each person (age, weight, medical history) and the amount of weed consumed. Oftentimes, effects vary even when the same amount of product is consumed. This is because the potency of any product is somewhat difficult to gauge. Inexperienced users are wise to use marijuana in moderation.
Below is a list of effects which can be expected with the consumption of recreational marijuana:
Increased appetite (aka, the munchies)
Dry mouth (also known as cottonmouth), meaning a lack of saliva
Short-term memory loss
Feelings of euphoria
Anxiety or paranoia
Increased sensitivity to external stimulations
Impaired motor skills
What Is The Difference Between Recreational Marijuana And Medical Marijuana
The main difference between recreational and medical marijuana is whether the user considers it recreational or medical. Some legal states have different guidelines for medical and recreational products, but those are arbitrary.
CBD is often associated with medical uses of the plant, but it is also found in some products which are considered recreational. CBD has been shown to potentially exert a range of useful effects on the human body; these include that it can help with pain management and prevent inflammation. It is important to keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to officially recognize cannabis as medicine, though it has approved an anti-seizure drug called Epidiolex which contains CBD.
Other differences between recreational and medicinal marijuana are regulatory in nature. In order to purchase medical marijuana, a recommendation from a doctor is required. Consumers must typically be at least 18 years of age to purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary. For recreational marijuana, no doctor’s recommendation is required, however, as with cigarettes and alcohol, people must be at least 21 years of age in order to purchase from a dispensary.
How Many States Have Recreational Marijuana?
The legal status of marijuana is complicated, and often contentious. At a federal level, THC remains classified a Schedule 1 drug in the United States, meaning it is currently illegal. However, CBD has been legalized, including cannabis plants with THC levels lower than 0.3%.
Things get more muddled at the state level, since some states have enacted their own legislation pertaining to marijuana. Some states have legalized both CBD and THC, while others have only legalized CBD used for medical purposes. As of July 2020, about 22 states have legalized medical marijuana, but not recreational. These states include New York, Florida, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Minnesota. 12 states have legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana. A complete list is below.
Where Is Recreational Marijuana Legal?
The number of states opting to legalize recreational marijuana is growing year by year. Below is a list of all the states in which recreational weed has been legalized, along with the official date of legalization, as of July 2020:
- Alaska (February 24, 2015)
- California (January 1, 2018)
- Colorado (November 6, 2012)
- Illinois (January 1, 2020)
- Maine (November 2016)
- Massachusetts (July 2018)
- Michigan (December 2018)
- Nevada (November 8, 2016)
- Oregon (January 1, 2015)
- Vermont (January 11, 2018)
- Washington (January 1, 2012)
- Washington D.C. (November 2014)
Should Recreational Marijuana Be Legal?
As with many things in life, there are divergent views on whether marijuana should be legalized. Below are a few pros and cons to consider:
- Legalizing recreational marijuana could help end tactics associated with the war on drugs, which disproportionately affects communities of color through unfair enforcement and incarceration policies. For example, in the U.S. Black people are nearly four times more likely on average to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses than whites.
- Tax revenues gleaned from the sales of legal marijuana can provide additional funding to school, housing and other important social programs. The MORE Act of 2019, which aims to decriminalize marijuana at a federal level, would direct tax revenue into a fund which would support communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
- Marijuana is widely considered less dangerous than other legal and illegal drugs, including alcohol. Around the world, alcohol-fuelled violence kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, while experts have not established a clear link between cannabis usage and violence.
- Many people fear the coming of “Big Marijuana”, akin to Big Pharma, meaning the creation of an exploitative industry governed by policies which seek to maximize profit at the expense of people and the environment. According to this argument Larger corporations are more likely to market to children, or target heavy users in order to sell more product, helping fuel additions that can ruin lives.
- Like alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana can be addictive, leading to potentially negative long-term mental and physical impacts.
When used responsibly, recreational marijuana can be an enjoyable experience to share with friends or to savor on one’s own – and as more states legalize marijuana, these experiences are likely to become more socially acceptable. The demand for recreational marijuana is likely here to stay.