Pot vs. Booze: The Social Implications
As society’s attitude toward marijuana seems to be shifting, so are forecasts of what the increased use of cannabis (the more formal name for the plant) will mean for society.
The trend is unmistakable.
In Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, the possession and sale of cannabis for medicinal and non-medicinal purposes is legal, and another 15 states are considering legalizing recreational cannabis use. Washington, DC has legalized the personal use of cannabis. Finally, a national survey conducted in 2013 found that 52% of Americans thought marijuana should be made legal.
A study team at the University of California recently conducted a thorough investigation into the social and economic aspects of heavy cannabis use. They found that alcohol abuse is more likely than cannabis to play a role in events such as traffic accidents and violence -- but when cannabis and alcohol's effects on relationships, delinquency and education are measured, results are less clear.
Researchers used data of 947 New Zealanders from birth through age 38. Between 15% and 18% were classified as cannabis-dependent or regular users. Those people were seen to have downward social mobility and more financial problems, such as troubles with debt and cash flow than those with no persistent use.
Both alcohol and cannabis abusers showed similar declines in social class; both were more likely to carry out antisocial behaviors in the workplace and to have relationship problems. However, the heavy cannabis users were more likely than the alcohol abusers to have the most severe financial difficulties -- like difficulty finding enough money to eat.
The team stressed that their results do not relate to legalization issues, but offer a fuller picture of long-term marijuana use.