Marijuana is readily available in almost every corner of the United States. It's found growing in homes, on farms, in the suburbs and in the city. Cannabis is frequently found growing on public land, often in remote locations to prevent observation and identification of the growers. In 2003, drug law enforcement authorities seized 2.7 million pounds (1.2 million kilograms) "> of marijuana from illegal operations. Marijuana is also smuggled into the United States from Mexico, Cambodia and Thailand, among other countries.
There is a growing trend toward indoor cultivation of marijuana in the United States because of the DEA's efforts to curtail outdoor cultivation. Indoor marijuana growers cultivate cannabis in closets, fish tanks and elaborate greenhouses. Some marijuana growers have even built structures that look like real homes but lack interior walls, all to hide their marijuana-growing operations.
More than 71 million Americans over the age of 12 had tried marijuana as of 1998, which is more than 25 percent of the national population. Frequent usage is lower than it was in 1979, when 13.2 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 was using marijuana on a monthly basis. In 1999, it had declined to 5.1 percent.
There are several ways in which people use marijuana, and the way in which it is used determines the amount of chemicals transferred into the body. Here are the most common methods of use:
- Cigarette - Also called a joint, dried marijuana buds are rolled into a cigarette. Approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of the THC is transferred into the body when smoking a joint.
- Cigar - Some users slice open a cigar, remove the tobacco and refill it with marijuana. The marijuana-filled cigar is often called a blunt.
- Pipe - You've probably seen people smoke pipes of tobacco, but these pipes are also used to smoke marijuana. About 40 percent to 50 percent of the THC is transferred into the body when using a pipe.
- Bong - These are water pipes that typically have a long tube rising out of a bowl-shaped base. Water pipes trap the smoke until it's inhaled, raising the amount of THC taken in.
- Food - Marijuana is sometimes baked into foods, such as brownies, or brewed as tea.
With millions of users, marijuana use isn't limited to one demographic group. It cuts across all racial and economic boundaries. However, marijuana use is highest among younger people. The prevalence of marijuana use in teenagers doubled from 1992 to 1999: One out of every 13 kids aged 12 to 17 were current users of marijuana in 1999. The 1998 National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse indicates that marijuana is very easy to obtain. Half of all 13-year-olds said that they can find and purchase marijuana, according to the study. Of teens surveyed, 49 percent said that they had first tried marijuana at age 13 or younger.
Buying, selling, using or growing marijuana is illegal in every part of the United States. Penalties vary from place to place, but usually consist of jail time, a fine or both. In some states, you can be arrested for just being in a place where you know drug activity is taking place. The severity of the penalty varies on several factors:
- Quantity - Penalties vary based on the amount of marijuana found in the person's possession.
- Selling - Penalties are more severe for those intending to sell marijuana.
- Growing - Penalties are also more severe for those cultivating cannabis.
- Location - A person arrested for selling marijuana near a school will often face harsher penalties.
Jail sentences and fines have done little to suppress the use of marijuana in the United States. Despite the health and legal risks that come with using marijuana (or any illicit drug), it continues to be the illegal drug of choice for many Americans, as it has for decades.
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