As the number of tobacco users in the United States falls, cannabis consumption continues to rise. A Gallup poll from 2019 found that America’s cigarette use was at its lowest since polling began in 1944. Around 15% of Americans said they smoked cigarettes in the previous week. The figure was 45% in the 1950s!
In contrast, approximately 12% of Americans said they smoked cannabis in the same poll. 8% also said they had vaped in the previous week. However, the percentage of Americans who admitted using cannabis has not increased in recent times. It is effectively at the same level as in 2016.
It seems likely that the percentage would increase if cannabis were legalized nationwide. However, there is a growing trend towards other consumption methods, including edibles and topicals. Even so, smoking remains one of the most popular ways to consume the herb.
If you were to ask 100 people why they used cannabis, you would likely get at least a dozen different reasons. Rather than investigate them all, we have decided to focus on five of the most popular in this article.
#1 – Medicinal Reasons
At the time of writing, 33 American states plus Washington, D.C., allow cannabis in one form or another. Twenty-two of these states permit MMJ only. Recent research suggests that 67.5% of Americans now have access to MMJ at the very least. It is a figure that represents almost 222 million people.
Estimates vary as to the number of MMJ patients. The Marijuana Policy Project believes there are 3.66 million ‘state-legal’ patients. California alone accounts for more than half of that figure! If you live in a state where medical marijuana is NOT legal, you risk prosecution for using it.
The level of research into the possible medical benefits of cannabis is growing.
Unfortunately, as it remains a federally illegal substance, performing detailed research into its uses is challenging. It is also against the law to make any medical claims regarding marijuana or any of its cannabinoids. Therefore, sellers can’t suggest it cures or treats any medical condition.
However, for patients with qualifying conditions in legal states, it is a crucial weapon in their quest to manage their symptoms. The United States is experiencing a severe opioid epidemic that claims the lives of approximately 47,000 people each year. There is a growing trend towards using MMJ as a less addictive alternative to pharmaceutical painkillers.
For those who want a non-intoxicating option, there is CBD. There are certain high-CBD strains like Charlotte’s Web, and it is also derived from industrial hemp. While the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the list of controlled substances, it didn’t do the same for CBD. Nonetheless, most states tolerate CBD usage.
#2 – Spiritual Use
Wellness advocates point out that spiritual wellbeing is crucial in the context of overall health. Anti-cannabis groups conveniently forget about the long and rich history of marijuana use. As well as being used as a medicine, a variety of ancient cultures also had spiritual reasons for consuming marijuana.
The Atharvaveda, a sacred Indian text likely written between 1200 BC and 1000 BC, lists weed as one of the ‘five holy plants.’ The Scythians, who lived in modern-day Eastern Europe, used marijuana at funerals to pay their respects to leaders who recently died. Indeed, Herodotus wrote about how they would throw seeds onto hot rocks and inhale the fumes!
Many ancient Chinese texts write about how marijuana ‘lightens’ an individual’s body, and enables them to communicate with spirits. Zoroaster, a Persian prophet, relied on bhanga’s intoxicating effects to communicate with spirits. Some researchers even believe that kaneh bosm was an ancient name for weed. You will find mentions of the plant in the Old Testament.
Even today, the use of marijuana is common in religious ceremonies. In Rastafarianism, using cannabis is one of the central tenets of the religion. Followers condemn the use of weed to get high and instead consume it at ceremonies to enhance feelings of unity. The herb can also help generate spiritual and soothing visions.
The list of cultures that use cannabis for these reasons, past and present, goes on and on. You can read more about it in the spiritual history of cannabis.
#3 – To Relieve Stress
Proponents of cannabis believe it is one of the best ways to relieve stress. However, opponents of the herb have used myths and stereotypes to paint this potential benefit in a negative light. The suggestion is that using potent pot can result in you sitting on the couch like a drooling vegetable. ‘Stoners’ spend most of their lives in a state of intoxication with no desire or motivation to achieve anything.
Some chronic users resemble James Franco’s character in Pineapple Express. However, such individuals make up a small fraction of the population. Research suggests that cannabis is a potential stress reliever if used in low to moderate amounts. The primary reason to use a lot of high-THC marijuana is to get stoned.
If you want genuine stress and anxiety-relieving properties, use a sensible amount. A study by Childs et al., published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence in May 2017, looked at how THC impacted emotional responses to acute stress. The researchers found that THC could reduce stress, as long as the dose is regulated.
The study involved 42 volunteers aged 18-40 with some marijuana experience, but none were regular users. Next, the researchers divided everyone into three groups. One group received 7.5mg of THC, another got 12.5mg, while the third group received a placebo.
The group that used 7.5mg experienced fewer nerves when faced with a public-speaking task than the placebo group. However, those who received 12.5mg suffered from a higher degree of anxiety on average. According to Childs, the study provided some support for the claim that weed can reduce stress, tension, and anxiety. However, it also suggested that a low and slow approach is the best option.
#4 – Peer Pressure & Social Use
There is no question that peer pressure plays a role in many instances of juvenile criminal behavior. During adolescence, individuals are trying to sort out their personal identity and forge new relationships. Teenagers are often terrified at ‘not fitting in’ and becoming an ‘outcast.’ As a result, they tend to engage in illicit activities such as drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.
Cannabis remains the most used illegal drug in the world. Research from the Department of Human & Health Services is revealing. In one study it found that 5% of students in the eighth grade reported using cannabis in the previous month. That percentage rose to 14% in tenth grade, and 23% in twelfth grade.
With such a high number of kids using it, it is evident that peer pressure is a significant factor. While we advocate for the sensible use of cannabis by adults in legal states, we are against its use amongst minors. There is evidence that it could cause harmful outcomes in those who use it from a young age. MMJ programs make rare exceptions for children with specific conditions.
One should also not underestimate the social aspect of marijuana use. Once again, we can go back thousands of years for evidence of it. In India, ancient Hindus were against the use of alcohol but allowed the social use of cannabis. In ancient Rome, it is believed that wealthy individuals finished lavish banquets with a weed-seed dessert. Unsurprisingly, guests loved how it made them feel!
These days, the humble act of sharing a joint or bong can strengthen friendships. When used in moderation, marijuana potentially becomes part of a person’s routine without having a negative impact. Of course, using weed in public places is illegal, so stoner bonding remains indoors for now.
#5 – THC
Whether we like to admit it or not, perhaps the second most common reason people try cannabis is to get high! It is often also the reason so many of us continue coming back for more. With hundreds of strains all offering a different type of high, it can be a really enjoyable and beneficial experience.
Most of the reason behind the negative stigma attached to cannabis is due to the THC contained within the plant.
THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that gives the feeling of being high, and it has been very misunderstood over the years as being a harmful and mind-altering drug.
We would always recommend to start off low and build up when smoking weed, especially if you are new to the plant as it can lead to unpleasant effects if too much is taken too soon. That being said, there have been no recorded deaths or severe side effects associated with the plant, and hundreds of cases of positive benefits arise from it (so the research speaks for itself!).
Final Thoughts on Why People Start Using Marijuana
Ultimately, there are a myriad of reasons and motivations for trying weed. Overall, it is highly unlikely that your experience while high will be the same as anyone else’s. Those who use it for medical reasons often believe it is more useful than pharmaceutical drugs. If you use it for spiritual purposes, you may genuinely feel that it contributes to better wellbeing and a greater understanding of the world.
If you use it due to peer pressure, we advise you to steer clear until you are old enough to use it legally. For those who are always stressed out by the rat race, cannabis could help them chill out and relax. Finally, if you use weed for its THC content, adopt a sensible approach. When used in moderation, you may find that marijuana is a fun experience. Using too much, however, can lead to a negative one, which turns you off the plant forever.