- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

With five states slated to weigh whether or not to legalize marijuana this November, a new report reveals that more Americans than ever before admit to regularly smoking weed.

Thirteen percent of adults surveyed by Gallup last month said they currently smoke pot, up from 7 percent only three years earlier.

While Gallup stops short of directly attributing the nearly 100 percent increase on any particular trend, the spike with respect to adults who openly admit marijuana use follows a years-long legalization effort that has successfully reduced or eliminated criminal penalties for pot smokers in several states with potentially more to come.

“States’ willingness to legalize marijuana could be a reason for the uptick in the percentage of Americans who say they smoke marijuana, regardless of whether it is legal in their particular state. Gallup finds residents in the West — home of all four states that have legalized recreational marijuana use — are significantly more likely to say they smoke marijuana than those in other parts of the country,” said Gallup.

California green-lighted the nation’s first statewide medicinal marijuana program two decades ago, and roughly half the country has since followed suit. Colorado became the first state to allow for retail sales of marijuana for recreational use beginning in 2014, and three other states and Washington, D.C. have passed measures in the years since establishing rules for adults who want to get high without first obtaining a doctor’s prescription.

Yet while more adults than ever before told pollsters that they currently smoke marijuana, recent legislative changes do not appear to have made any long-term differences just yet. Despite the nearly 100 percent increase with regards to adults who admit currently smoking pot, the number of adults who say they’ve smoked marijuana at one point or another — 43 percent — is just one percentage point below last year’s figure.

As reported in February, around $5.4 billion worth of medicinal and recreational marijuana was legally sold within the U.S. last year. That figure could soon spike even further, depending on decisions voters make at the polls this November.

“As nine states vote on various levels of marijuana legalization this fall, 2016 could mark a significant legal shift on the issue,” Gallup acknowledged in the report released Monday. “Recreational use could become legal in as many as nine states (up from only four today), and medicinal use could become legal in an additional four states.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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