Colorado and Washington were the first to pass those laws in 2012. At least five states have measures on the ballot this fall that would legalize recreational use. And that number is only likely to rise with an all-time high (no pun intended) of 58 percent of Americans (according to a Gallup poll last year) favoring legalization.
The effects of these new laws have been immediate. One study, which collected data from 2011-12 and 2012-13, showed a 22 percent increase in monthly use in Colorado. The percentage of people there who used daily or almost daily also went up. So have marijuana-related driving fatalities. And so have incidents of children being hospitalized for accidentally ingesting edible marijuana products.
But legalization and our growing cultural acceptance of marijuana have disproportionately affected one group in particular: the lower class.
A recent study by Steven Davenport of RAND and Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon notes that “despite the popular stereotype of marijuana users as well-off and well-educated . . . they lag behind national averages” on both income and schooling.
For instance, people who have a household income of less than $20,000 a year comprise 19 percent of the population but make up 28 percent of marijuana users. And even though those who earn more than $75,000 make up 33 percent of the population, 25 percent of them are marijuana users. Having more education also seems to make it less likely that you are a user. College graduates make up 27 percent of the population but only 19 percent of marijuana users.
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