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High numbers in marijuana use among adults

Ben Schmitt
| Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, 6:03 a.m.
In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana plants with their buds covered in white crystals called trichomes, are nearly ready for harvest in the 'Flower Room' at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill.
In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana plants with their buds covered in white crystals called trichomes, are nearly ready for harvest in the 'Flower Room' at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill.

Americans are toking up in record numbers, or at least admitting they are, according to a new Gallup poll.

The findings released this week found the percentage of American adults who admitted to smoking marijuana has nearly doubled in three years. In 2013, only 7 percent of adults said they were marijuana smokers. Last month, 13 percent of those polled said they smoke pot.

“I'm not surprised that people are more open about it,” said Dr. Antoine Douaihy, medical director of addiction medicine services at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC. “It's fascinating how culture is now embracing the idea that marijuana use is all right, and safe.”

He said he remains concerned about an increase in younger people using the drug when their brains are developing. Gallup reported about one in five people under the age of 30 said they smoke marijuana.

“From an addiction psychiatrist's perspective, I still believe legalization of marijuana for recreational use comes with potential problems,” Douaihy said. “The riskiest age is adolescence.”

Pittsburgh attorney and marijuana reform activist Patrick Nightingale said he has used marijuana since the 1980s, but didn't always broadcast it.

“A lot of people used to feel like we were locked in a cannabis closet and had to be careful,” said Nightingale, who is executive director of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society. “These poll numbers indicate that, in 2016, more adults feel comfortable admitting their cannabis use. There's a changing landscape.”

About 43 percent of Americans admit they have tried smoking marijuana, according to the report.

Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington state. Five states, including California, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona and Nevada, are voting on marijuana legalization in November.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation April 17 legalizing medical marijuana for certain medical conditions in Pennsylvania. Implementation of the program is underway and includes setting up dispensaries and laboratories. Half of American states have some form of a law legalizing medicinal marijuana.

Gallup based the poll results on telephone interviews conducted July 13-17, with a random sample of 1,023 adults, 18 and older, living in all 50 states and Washington D.C.

“People are more willing to discuss their own marijuana use, that's for sure,” said Jahan Marcu, a molecular biologist who specializes in cannabis research and oversight for the nonprofit organization Americans for Safe Access. “You can readily see that on Facebook, for example.”

Contact Ben Schmitt at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com

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