- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 22, 2015

The percentage of adults in the United States who have smoked marijuana has more than doubled during the last decade, health professionals said in a report this week.

An analysis of data taken during 2012 and 2013 from 36,309 Americans over the age of 18 revealed that 9.5 percent of adults polled said they’ve smoked pot.

Statistics from 2001 and 2002 put that figure at a comparable meager 4.1 percent, giving scientists enough evidence to say there’s been a significant increase in the span since.

“What was quite clear is the prevalence of use among adults had more than doubled,” Dr. Deborah Hasin of Columbia University, the study’s lead author, told Reuters.

The findings were published online by the journal JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday and once again suggest marijuana use is becoming more mainstream in the U.S. as state and federal authorities ponder the future of pot prohibition. Twenty-three states currently have rules in place for medical marijuana, and calls for decriminalization have prevailed elsewhere in recent years and even gave way to state-sanctioned retail infrastructure in Colorado, Oregon and Washington state. Nevertheless, marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 narcotic as far as the Drug Enforcement Agency is concerned.

“I’m not too surprised by the results,” Dr. Larissa Mooney, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Addiction Medicine Clinic, told CBS News after being briefed on the findings. “There’s an increase in prevalence of marijuana use because it’s become more and more available.”

“By any rational assessment, the continued criminalization of cannabis is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML, told HealthWeek this week. “It should not be a criminal justice matter. These findings do little to change this fact.”

Last month, researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research found college students in the U.S. were more inclined to smoke a spliff than a cigarette. The authors of the latest report — a collaboration with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — noted that while weed smoking has become more prevalent during the last decade, the percentage of users exhibiting signs of marijuana dependence or abuse have slightly declined.

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