One of the biggest cash crops in America at the height of the seventeenth and eighteenth century was none other than marijuana – something our grade school history textbooks conveniently left out. It wasn’t until right before the Great Depression did negative perceptions of marijuana begin to surface and, since then, the taboo surrounding the drug became stronger than ever. That is, until recently. In 2012 both Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana for adults twenty—one years of age or older, causing many other states to follow suit. Despite this, the recreational use of marijuana has continued growing for years and one of the most common places to find its use happens to be in college campuses. In this paper I will examine and analyze marijuana as it is used by youths and how it affects their well-being
Before we saw marijuana becoming legalized, there was an incredible trend involving anti-marijuana propaganda – beginning as early as the nineteen thirties. Films such as Reefer Madness was made for young people to propagate the government’s message that cannabis use would lead to insanity or sexual promiscuity. Furthermore, the ascendancy of Richard Nixon shifted the focus of anti-cannabis propaganda to target minorities and anti-war activists. According to an info-graphic from PBS, in 1964 four out of one hundred people in the US actively smoked marijuana compared to the one out of four in 2013.
How does this compare to young people’s perception of the drug since its legalization? Well, let’s look at the case of California. According to The International Journal of Drug Policy, “In the year 2012 for the first time California 12th graders reported significantly less perceived harm and personal disapproval of regular marijuana use” (Meich). Along with this, “California 12th graders also reported a higher expectancy that they would use marijuana five years in the future” (Meich). Since marijuana is being de-stigmatized state by state, it is becoming a far cry from the dangerous drug that the media and others attempted to frame it to be in the early to mid-twentieth century. Young people do no longer perceive it in the same light as harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
The Labeling Theory is the theory that people are labeled and treated in ways that fit the label, causing the people to behave in ways that fit that label and, overtime, becoming that person. It is possible that this theory can apply to youth and young adults starting to smoke marijuana. When Colorado and Washington had just passed legislation for the legalization of non-medical marijuana, those states automatically became associated first and foremost with the drug itself. If one lived in Colorado or Washington, or traveled there, there is a good chance that their peers may verbally make the assumption that the person may live or be traveling there just to smoke marijuana. In turn, this may make them more likely to be perceived and labeled as a “pot...