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New medical and recreational marijuana laws spur conversations about the drug’s impact on society.
During yesterday’s midterm election, Americans across the country joined the discussion on drug reform through voting. Several states proposed legalizing marijuana in some form, a sweeping change from just a few years ago when marijuana was taboo except in extreme medical cases (and even then heavily regulated). This year, California also had a bill to reduce the punishment for some nonviolent crimes, including drug possession.
Prior to yesterday’s vote, medical marijuana was already legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Medical marijuana laws legalize the drug as a pain reliever for patients with illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other ailments marked by chronic pain. Patients must present a medical ID card in order to purchase the substance.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado and Washington state during the primary elections in 2012. In these states, marijuana is regulated much like alcohol. In the 2014 midterms, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia all voted on recreational marijuana use.
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With the results tallied, we know what the next few months will look like in terms of drug legislation throughout the U.S. Here are the major changes by state:
This shifting tide in public perception of marijuana poses an interesting question for those in the addiction and recovery field. Contrary to popular opinion, marijuana is a decidedly addictive substance. Based on the DSM’s model for defining addiction, many frequent smokers exhibit signs of addiction, including:
As we’ve seen with prescriptions such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, any painkiller that isn’t carefully monitored can be subject to abuse and eventual addiction. While it’s too early to tell whether there will be addiction backlash from the country’s clear shift toward lax marijuana policy, it is important to be aware of how this or any drug policy could lead to damaging effects on society—and, as always, provide viable recovery options for those already struggling with an addiction to marijuana and other painkilling substances.
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