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More U.S. adults using marijuana than ever

Staff Writer | September 6, 2016
As perceptions of marijuana change, more American adults are using pot than ever before, and they're using it more often, a new study finds.
New trend   Education about the harms of pot is essential
Over 13 percent of adults surveyed in 2014 said they'd used marijuana in the previous year, up from roughly 10 percent in 2002.

Also, daily or near daily use - five days or more a week - rose from less than 2 percent to almost 4 percent of adults during that time period.

"This increase has corresponded with the legal and social acceptance of marijuana, and so it is not such a surprise," said lead study author Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

He pointed out that over the past 20 years, medical marijuana has been legalized in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

However, noting that marijuana's potency has increased, Compton's team said education about the harms of pot is essential.

"We need to think about how to do appropriate prevention messaging to make sure people aren't putting themselves at risk for becoming dependent and other problems associated with the drug," he said.

These harms could include "difficulty with their work performance and with their ability to think clearly and function," Compton said.

For the report researchers surveyed nearly 600,000 adults from 2002 to 2014. Based on the findings, the researchers estimated that the overall number of marijuana users increased from 22 million to 32 million during that period, with first-time marijuana users jumping from more than 800,000 to 1.4 million.

Daily users numbered more than 8 million in 2014 - more than twice as many as in 2002, the study authors determined.

Greater pot use was associated with a drop in the percentage of people who associate smoking marijuana with harm. Where just one-third of Americans once considered marijuana safe, now half do, according to the report.