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Who Smokes Marijuana In America?

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel April 25, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xWe know that roughly half the adults in the entire country have smoked marijuana at some point in their lives, and that more than 30 million Americans have smoked just in the last year, a number that continues to increase each year. What is not so clear is precisely who smokes marijuana. If one were to rely on the popular culture for that answer, you might conclude marijuana smokers are cultural misfits living a lifestyle better suited for the 1960s and 70s.

    The Current Inaccurate Images Held by Non-Smokers

    Because of a number of factors resulting from prohibition (i.e., recreational marijuana smoking remains illegal in most states; a social stigma still attaches to marijuana smoking; and most middle-class marijuana smokers must remain “in the closet” to protect their jobs), the public image of marijuana smokers has been largely shaped by those on the fringes of the marijuana culture. Too often the result, fueled by stoner movies and popular culture, has been a cartoon-like image of the stoned slacker whose life is all about getting and staying stoned all day.

    While most of us who smoke marijuana have learned to enjoy the humor, it has without question held us back politically.

    Because of those negative stereotypes, even in the states that have legalized marijuana and stopped arresting smokers, marijuana smokers are simply not treated fairly in a number of important areas that impact us on a daily basis. Private employers are still legally permitted to fire an employee who tests positive for THC without any evidence the employee came to work in an impaired condition. Child welfare agencies across the country routinely presume that any use of marijuana by a parent with minor children is evidence suggesting the parent may be unfit to retain custody of his/her child. And marijuana smokers remain subject to arrest and prosecution for a DUID charge, simply because some level of THC was found in their system , without any showing of impairment. These and other discriminatory practices would not be tolerated if those of us who smoke were seen as good, responsible citizens.

    Who Smokes Marijuana Today?

    While the survey was far too small to provide statistically significant data, a recent poll designed to learn more about the demographics of marijuana smokers does allow us to peek behind the curtain that continues to mask the identity of most marijuana smokers. This new poll, the Civilized Cannabis Culture Poll, suggests those negative stereotypes common in the media are pure fiction and do not accurately reflect the marijuana smoking culture in America. They found that smokers are just average people with families, careers and full lives, in addition to their marijuana smoking.

    So We’re Not Slackers, After All

    According to the Civilized poll results, most marijuana consumers are homeowners (66%); 74% are employed ; half have a household income of $75,000 or higher; 51% hold supervisory or executive roles at work; 52% have completed college or university-level programs; and 78% are married with children.

    That sounds pretty mainstream and middle-class to me.

    The poll also confirmed that most (73%) marijuana smokers admit they sometimes feel the need to hide their marijuana smoking from their family members, friends, or colleagues at work. Twenty-four percent of the men reported hiding their use from their wives or significant others, while 17% of women said they did the same. The percentage using marijuana surreptitiously was highest among young smokers and higher-income smokers. Without question, some social stigma remains attached to marijuana use, causing many smokers to keep their marijuana smoking a private matter.

    This survey found that once smokers reach retirement age, more people feel free to come out of the closet. Less than 7% of those over 45 years of age said they hid it from their spouse or partner. Apparently there are some advantages to age, and being honest about one’s marijuana use is one of those.

    Get To Know Your Neighbors

    All of which brings me back to the need for more middle-class marijuana smokers to let their friends and neighbors and, where possible, their colleagues at work, know they are responsible marijuana smokers in addition to being good neighbors and loving parents.

    If non-smokers understand that we are just like them, except that we prefer to smoke a joint at the end of the day to relax, just as tens of millions of other Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, then we can finally overcome the remaining obstacles that keep us from enjoying the same rights as all other citizens.

    We do not need to blow smoke in the face of those who do not approve of marijuana, but we do need to demonstrate by our conduct that we are good, productive citizens. Our use of marijuana is just one aspect of our lives and nothing that should concern them.

    Until we do this, we will continue to face unfair discrimination based solely on our choice of intoxicants. We have the ability to end marijuana discrimination, and we have the obligation to try.

    We are only incidentally talking about marijuana smoking. We are really talking about personal freedom and equality.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    This column was originally posted on marijuana.com:
    Read more http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/04/who-smokes-marijuana-in-america/

     

    31 Responses to “Who Smokes Marijuana In America?”

    1. Mark Mitcham says:

      I accept Keith’s political analysis; and I too would also encourage more people who smoke it to come out.

      But not only mainstream, middle-class smokers — that goes for anyone, regardless of how it is viewed by others. I say this because there are enormous personal benefits to coming out, such as the restoration of one’s personal dignity and self-esteem. You hold your head higher; you gain confidence.

      But the risks of coming out are understandable as well. I’m 55, so I’m in that group that no longer gives a shit what anyone thinks about it, because I (we of this age) have lived under prohibition so long that we’re almost out of time; can’t afford to wait any longer, no more time for bullshit — have to go for what we want now, or it might never happen!

      So, back in the 90’s, when legalization was only a dream, I realized I had to choose between my job and my weed. Jobs suck and weed is great, so I chose weed, and quit taking jobs that required a drug test. “I smoke pot,” I would tell them when it came up in the interview, “so what’s the point of taking the test? I decline.”

      That’s not easy to give up a high-paying career in electrical controls for the right to smoke, but I did it, and I’ve never regretted it for a minute. But there was a price! Now I’m a janitor and I’m dirt poor, can’t afford a car or a house, those mainsteam, middle-class things. But I never have a weed problem!

      Here’s my point: we need to start telling Corporate America to shove their goddamn drug tests up their corporate asshole, and start taking jobs that don’t drug test! They’re out there. You’ll be exploited financially, but you won’t be corporate property anymore!

    2. Julian says:

      Here here, Mark & Keith.
      Mark: electrical controls? Have you ever considered going self employed? If you have a retirement plan as a janitor see if you can keep it part time and test the waters. Either a journeymans licence as an electrician or investing in a good server and starting your own tech contracting business can lead to big money if you stay steady with work and network to meet investors or possible clients that are happy for your service and don’t give a $#!+ about a piss test because you’re contracting. Ironically the whole government up to the Department of Defense is resigned to the fact they have to contract out for tech securities (Tanium) because they know they couldn’t get the good techs to pass a piss test. How’s that for irony? Our national security depends on some contractors who could let our defense go to Hell in a handbasket if the government dares try and piss test them.

      Keith;
      I’m with you brother, all the way up to the mother in law… She can have what the mushrooms have.
      Too many marijuana-child-custody battles stem from grandparents “temporarily” taking care of the kids, so if that’s the situation I sound the alarm of discretion. CPS is one phone call away. Remember, smoking marijuana while mowing the lawn or working on the truck was how we coped with what those kids do to drive us crazy day to day, so if you think dropping them off with the parents while settling a situation is a good idea you better make sure they have some good weed before they snap and make a call everyone will regret.

      • Julian says:

        “They” have good weed being grandma and grandpa, not the kids of course… Unless they’re in a medical condition that requires it or play tackle football…

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        @ Julian,
        I appreciate your kind words and suggestions.
        Without getting too off-topic, let me just say that I’m doing great these days, I’m a free spirit now, and wouldn’t want to go back to engineering, even if they promised me all the weed I wanted. I do know a bit about contracting, but I don’t have the stomach for it, because I find money distasteful. I was a technican, not a businessman. I need money to pay bills and buy weed and so forth, but I don’t actually like money, or enjoy thinking about money. But that’s not how contracting works. You have to estimate and bid on jobs. It’s all about the money. You gotta care deeply about money. You gotta crave it! I’d get eaten alive. But it’s still a good suggestion on your part. Thank you.

        My point was just that there may be a price to coming out, and that price may be very high. But in my case, it was worth it!

    3. Julian says:

      Incidentally the lead Orthadox Rabbi of the Jewish religion blessed marijuana and said it was kosher for passover this Friday. If only getting marijuana descheduled was so easy! I can’t imagine any image more mainstream for marijuana legalization than watching my 90 year old grandmother take a puff after seder supper from the patio behind 18th century furniture and 70s wallpaper. And they told me they cracked the door to let the messiah in!

    4. TheOracle says:

      Oh, you know it. You have to be able to trust your neighbors if you’re coming out of the cannabis closet, and you have to be able to afford it if you get canned.

      Any way you can feed the feds a plan that would basically tax adult retail recreational cannabis, and that money is then used by the feds to send to the states to pay for the Obamacare they want to repeal? These politicians ought to come right out and just say they want to take away people’s health insurance instead of phrasing it as wanting to repeal Obamacare. They don’t want to pay for it, so is the revenue the feds collect and send back to the states going to cover all the costs of Obamacare so it doesn’t get repealed? What if a state’s tax revenues kicked in some money from their cannabis levies, too? I mean, why not? Put people’s health care in jeopardy? Well, the same people who don’t want to pay more, don’t want to increase the minimum wage, I’ll bet. Nobody but the cannabis community wants to be taxed, and in return wants the witch hunt–prohibition–to end. Everybody else can point to pot and say yeah tax it as long as you don’t tax me.

      The feds tax alcohol, right? I mean, what happened at the UNGASS? They have got to get out of the way. Canada told them they’re legalizing in spring 2017.

      https://ttb.gov/

    5. TheOracle says:

      This lawsuit bullshit by Oklahoma and Nebraska has got to be stopped. Brussels has to allow EU countries to decide for themselves whether they want to legalize or not. For that I don’t want to wait for another of their special sessions. Not three years from now, not one more day. Everyone just needs to get out of the way of legalization. Hey, if you don’t want to legalize in your country, don’t execute people for cannabis, and if you punish them harshly don’t be surprised if a lot of them want to leave and go to another country.

      Cannabis prohibition must end now! Look at the mass murders of the same family–8 members of the Rhoden family–in southern Ohio, you know, that they found pot growing operations at 3 of the 4 homes. I mean, holy shit! You wouldn’t have this kind of violence if cannabis were legal. WTF is it going to take to get through to you prohibitionists?

      http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_29811618/nebraska-and-oklahomas-new-tactic-overturn-marijuana-legalization

      http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/04/24/marijuana_grow_operations_found_at_ohio_murder_sites.html

      https://www.mpp.org/states/ohio/

      • Julian says:

        Interesting link to the case in Pueblo county where Nebraska and Oklahoma AGs are trying to shortcut back to the Supreme Court. Thanks.
        Does this not demonstrate how desperate the prohibitionists are getting? They’re consolidating, so we should strike back and get two birds stoned at once. Pueblo county should sanction the AGs for harrassment and wasting the court’s time with a frivolous case brought in bad faith because the plaintiffs damages are based on third parties detained inside the states of Oklahoma and Nebraska. Flush out the plaintiffs evidence, drop the sanctions, then countersue for damages that real criminals like murderers and rapists from Oklahoma and Nebraska are escaping into Colorado as those states have deprioritized solving violent crimes to pursue nonviolent people in possession of marijuana.
        It’s all political theater to extend the apoeals case into next year when we can petition Hillary to choose a more liberal judge.

        On a side note, we should never lie to our families about what we consume. Kids have to know not to discuss marijuana at school and if the spouse does not partake we smoke outside and respect our differences. But lies will break up a family faster than CPS on steroids.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          @ Julian:
          Excellent point: Don’t lie to your kids! Not about Safety! For the love of God, and your own children, don’t mislead them about the true nature of the threats in this dangerous world we live in!

          This is not only a basic human requirement; it’s more a mammalian requirement! Hell, even sewer rats will do this much for their young: show ’em the ropes, where to go, where to avoid danger, where to find food, etc.

          • Julian says:

            Not that I don’t try and hide the chocolate from them… “Nooooomm… Daddym didnm eat anmm chocolate…”
            “Then what’s in your mouth, Daddy?”
            “Nffng.”

    6. Anonymous says:

      One of the problems with this premise is that there are people who are the mainstream middle class who also do things like binge drink, do coke or are patrons of child pornography (not to say those things are all comparable, but still, fly in the face of goody two shoes boy scout) Cannabis use should be legal on the basis that theres little to no harm and much more to be gained from it, not solely based on the fact that white highly paid yuppies also smoke. The focus on this narrative is getting quite alienating and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who thinks so. If this is about personal freedom, then that personal freedom is owed to everyone regardless if they have a high social status in our culture. Besides, ardent naysayers won’t be converted overnight because their well-to-do lawyer friend smokes, they will in many cases see their success as garnered in spite of their smoking rather than unaffected by their free time activities. But again, my main point being that we shouldn’t have to strictly rally around an already largely protected group of people because it’s seen as somehow less deviant when white professionals do it.

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        @ anonymous:
        This is more or less the point I’m sticking on, too.

        While I agree with Keith’s political analysis of the problem (we are only 14 percent of the population; we have a “bad image” among the general population which must be changed in order to stop the narco-neighbors and narco-families, and the child-stealing state agencies, and the exploitation and extortion by our employers), I also agree with you as follows:

        Our fellow Americans need to understand that stoners are not lazy, or immoral, or dangerous; but this only because these things aren’t true! …and not because a bunch of privileged, white suburban types might be willing to admit they smoke it. It’s just another blatantly false stereotype to assume that privileged, white, insulated, gated-community-type suburban commuters, living for their “careers” of obedience to their corporate masters, represent the gold standard for social behavior.

        It’s not okay to smoke pot because the middle class does it; it’s okay to smoke pot because it’s okay to smoke pot!!

        But having said this, still we (Keith, you and I, and all of us) must come back to the question of how, then, to stop the damage these predjudices against stoners are undeniably causing. Keith isn’t saying “cut your job and get a hair” like I am; he’s only suggesting some of these middle-class types cautiously come out, where it’s not too risky. And I agree with him on that point, that they should do that, at a bare-ass minimum.

        But if you and I are not in that white middle-class, no need to try to pretend we are, or that we admire and wish to emulate that kind of sick consumer lifestyle! That’s not coming out, that’s crawling back into the closet! Don’t do that, Dig?

        • Julian says:

          Great reply on the jobs idea and thanks for keeping on topic.

          I have one encouraging story where being honest about my marijuana smoking paid off even though it was really risky, even for a self employed contractor.

          Picture it; the Texas Hill Country during the height of the Great Recession, 2009. The work dried up all the way through the drought of 2011, but I was hanging on to some clients I had been working on for years for some large framing and deck projects. In Colorado there was nothing going on in home construction. But I was surprised when a builder from Colorado walked up to one of my custom frame jobs and rolled out a 17,000 sq ft set of plans. It would remain the biggest most complicated residential home of my career.
          One day the builder and the lumber salesman (who referred me) all when out to Chili’s for a beer and some burgers, when the subject came up that “the clients will be visiting tomorrow and I should inform you in advance that their 11 year old boy is autistic, so please let your crew know to have patience around him when they show up.” I agreed to be aware and the subject got around to the builder’s own son, who is also autistic, and the terrible, expensive meds were making their lives miserable, “Were at our wits’ end,” said the builder.
          I hesitated for a minute, deep in consternation as a long pause seemed to bait my reaction. I had just read a report about how certain cannabis strains were helping children with autism. I think it was from this NORML site! But what do I do? I’m sitting in front of the two biggest links to money in my chosen profession during the worst recession since the Great Depression and I haven’t even met the clients! …But… This man needs help. His children need help. Fuck it. I took a tall swig of my Samuel Adams and this is what I said;

          • Julian says:

            “Y’know… This may hit you as a rather shocking surprise, but we live in a heavily over-medicated, over-prescribed society…”
            The builder couldn’t contain his laugh; “NOOooooo!”
            “Now, I’m no expert in autism, but I do know that giving a kid with mild autism the medication intended for severe autism is making matters worse.”
            I’ll spare the reader the emergency room horrors from side effects, but I saw the desperation in his eyes when he asked, “but if we can’t trust the meds what can we trust?”

            “Cannabis.”

            You should have seen the lumber rep’s eyes pop as he choked on his beverage. And he was paying for dinner!
            “The leading research is being conducted by the University of Meir, in Isreal. But there’s something happening in the University of Boulder, Colorado. There’s a doctor there; I’ll give you his name… It’s not far from you there and you can protect your anonymity visiting in person…”
            The builder acknowledged “its always marijuana friendly in Colorado,” talked about his days driving with his buddies from Minnesota to Mexico to score some weed, and even the salesman started to relax.
            I confessed “I would rather have marijuana smokers working for me sneaking a toke while I worry about the clients trying to show up than cigarettes smokers leaving their nasty little stubs all over the godamn jobsite.”
            “Tell me about it,” said the wealthy builder.
            Then something extraordinary happened, as I handed him a number to the University of Boulder,
            “Why can’t we support this research here?” he asked innocently.
            “Because,” I replied, “Since 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act the Office of National Drug Control Policy has been obligated to use our tax dollars to deny the medical efficacy of marijuana.” That statement even got the attention of a woman eavesdropping next to us as the builders face frowned with furious anger.
            “That has to change,” he said with conviction.
            “Yes, I believe it does…”

            • Anonymous says:

              I can see Mark’s point to an extent, but my comment was on topic, especially considering a common demographic to talk about on norml are moneyed middle class people. My point is that we shouldn’t worry about how clean cut and mainstream smokers are because there’s nothing wrong with doing it regardless of those who are irresponsible or who have it hard financially, which I know Keith and most of everyone here knows, but it’s not the best argument to make to say “It’s okay to do it because your middle class neighbors do it.” I do get what the point is and where people are coming from, but I get frustrated with arguments that have holes in them but are being made for a good reason, just like I get frustrated when people say cannabis is harmless because it’s natural (it’s just not the best logic even if they aren’t completely wrong). I’m merely making a case for stronger arguments than “other successful ppl do it too!” and “it’s natural!”.

    7. Observant guy says:

      Keith,

      I am glad that you like to “smoke” marijuana. I’ve been reading your posts for over two years now and am quite happy with much of what you say. I know you are good with words and and understand the impact word choice can have. One thing I’ve noticed is that you (almost) always refer to marijuana use as “smoking”. I’m curious if perhaps you can help us understand why you are not more inclusive in your terminology. After all, So many people vape the flowers or oils, many people ingest edibles, and all kinds of interesting ways to use the plant. Perhaps you could reconsider the way you refer to marijuana use. I prefer to say I “use marijuana” or “have some weed” – I am only one person, but not sure I understand the emphasis on smoking all the time, especially since the younger generation and many others would much prefer to vape, etc. Thanks.

      [Editor’s note: To each their own re how they best like to consume (or describe) cannabis. Keith eschew pipes, bongs, oils, vapor pens, dab rigs, etc…why? Because he prefers smoking marijuana joints (another personal preference of Keith’s is to employ the word ‘marijuana’ rather than cannabis). Whether one smokes, vapes or orally ingests cannabis, the need for cannabis prohibition to conclude remains the same.]

    8. Gerald Garrett says:

      We are weak as a country as our government only hires pill popping drinkers some of whom are addicted to nicotine. Cannabis lovers do not apply. No wonder our FBI and CIA, congress and any other branch is weak. We are weak as a country when could be stronger with the help of those that choose cannabis.

    9. Denny Strausser Jr says:

      We know that roughly half the adults in the entire country have smoked marijuana at some point in their lives, and that more than 30 million Americans have smoked just in the last year, a number that continues to increase each year. What is not so clear is precisely who smokes marijuana. If one were to rely on the popular culture for that answer, you might conclude marijuana smokers are cultural misfits living a lifestyle better suited for the 1960s and 70s. – See more at: http://blog.norml.org/2016/04/25/who-smokes-marijuana-in-america/#sthash.B1x8Ipcr.dpuf

      What is funny is, I am almost like a stereotypical stoner. I keep long hair, and sometimes wear shirts which looks 60ish. LOL.

      But I go to the gym and stuff. I gained too much weight quitting smoking, and am trying to lose some of it. So the lazy part?, No.

      Blow pot smoke into someone’s face? Hell No.
      If they don’t want to smoke, they don’t want to smoke. I have offered it to people, and if they say no… no problem.

      What I do not like is them claiming it is the same as pushing. I look at it the same way as, “Hey man, want a beer?” If that is so hard to grasp, then heaven help you.

      People need to get away from thinking I am pushing it on them, just because I asked. If I don’t ask, how the hell do I know if you’d want to or not? And if I smoke by myself, and you wanted some, then I feel bad.

      But yeah, people need to get away from this entire Stereotypical stoner thing.

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        That’s the whole reason why I keep going in circles on this “stoner image” topic!

        Is it dangerous, lazy, or immoral to smoke weed? No. Is it dangerous, lazy, or immoral to wear long hair? No. Is it dangerous, lazy or immoral to wear tye-dye, or display the cannabis symbol on your shirt, clothing, or body? No.

        So, in the eyes of our narco-neighbors and families and employers, who is the bigger threat: the clean-cut, suit-and-tie, corporate type who smokes pot, or the long haired, bearded hippie in sandals who is into clean living, and does no drugs at all? (Yes, they exist, I know them personally.)

        My best guess: probably the hippie! It’s INTEGRITY and PRINCIPLE and HONESTY that our culture detests. Why? Because YOU CAN’T BUY that type of person. (Or maybe their price is just too high!)

        Thus the dilemna: If I come out, I no longer hide the fact that I smoke it. But if displaying the fact that I smoke it is the very image that we are trying to change, then I can’t come out! At least not all the way.

        That’s why I’m not willing to throw the hippies, the blacks, the gays, the trans, the mexicans, the arabs, etc, etc, etc, under the bus. I believe we have to try to change that negative “druggie” perception, but I believe we must do it ethically, without scapegoating minority or fringe American cultures with more false-stereotypes.

        My best suggestion: I still agree with Keith, overall: more smokers need to “come out”, including middle-class smokers; we all need to call “Bullshit” on the War On Drugs. But, maintain your own integrity; represent for weed, but represent for yourself, too!

        • Denny Strausser Jr says:

          Had to quote this part.

          “So, in the eyes of our narco-neighbors and families and employers, who is the bigger threat: the clean-cut, suit-and-tie, corporate type who smokes pot, or the long haired, bearded hippie in sandals who is into clean living, and does no drugs at all? (Yes, they exist, I know them personally.”

          I myself never knew anyone like this, but do know they exist. There really isn’t a stereotypical stoner as what some comedy movies present. Many are completely normal people, living normal lives. Some so normal, that not a single person would ever suspect for two seconds, that they smoke pot. (Cannabis).

          In other words, there’s no such thing as the stereotypical stoner.

          The stereotypical stoner is more of a Propaganda thing started by Government and movies. Government to try to make a mockery of us to keep it illegal. Movies for comedy, which really doesn’t help us, just as said.

          And I do understand, it is hard to come out.
          I am not hiding, as that is my real name.

          I collect Social Security for (Mental Reasons.) and other reasons I don’t even know how to explain. My lawyer understands better then I do. I don’t know what is in the future for the laws on Cannabis here in Pennsylvania. I do know our governor Tom Wolf is the most liberal governor we’ve had on the issue though. Our last governor would never have passed the Medical Marijuana law which has passed here in PA. He’s also said he would sign other bills on the issue, or at least hinted toward it. He has said this bill was a step in the right direction to legal medical marijuana. He seems like he’d probably sign a bill for smoking cannabis for medical reasons, if it crossed his desk.

        • Denny Strausser Jr says:

          Finally. Ten years ago I would not have even dreamt we would be as far as we have gotten.
          In the 90s, I thought the prohibitionist was correct when one of them told me I would never see a change in my lifetime.

          Keep pushing, change is around the corner, but will get there faster with more coming out.

          Keep encouraging everyone to come out.

          Thanks For The Reply.

    10. Becky G. says:

      I can’t wait for the day to come when I can be an advocate; I’m not a drinker or a pill popper and I’m glad I’m not!! My life is great <3 <3 <3

      • Julian says:

        Becky, being an advocate for marijuana legalization is only one click away on this webpage. You can send a prescripted letter to your Congressman in the privacy of your own home. In all the years Ive given my address and phone number to Congress the worst thing that ever happened to me was more newsletters to spam from R-Rep Lamar Smith. (Lord knows I don’t need to see his face before coffee… There goes beakfast…)
        You won’t regret it. Instant gratification!

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