Beginning Oct. 8, pot shops across Alaska will be able to hand out free marijuana samples and more easily engage in widespread promotional activities.
Signed off by Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom on Sept. 8, the relaxed rules follow recommendations by the state’s Marijuana Control Board to make it easier for licensed weed dispensaries to offload their product to the general public.
Under the new regulations pot shops can erect more signage outside their facilities, distribute coupons and engage in offsite promotional activities. They can also advertise on college campuses, buses and bus stops, and place ads within 1,000 feet of substance abuse or treatment facilities.
Alaska’s new regulations come at a time when Gallup has found that 50% of Americans now say they have tried marijuana at some point, a new all-time high. In 1969 only 4% of Americans said they had tried marijuana.
About one in six Americans (17%) say they currently “smoke marijuana,” which is also a new record, and more than double the number who said the same in 2013.
A separate Gallup report shows that current marijuana use is highest among 18-to-34-year-olds (29%), while adults without a college degree are about twice as likely as college graduates to smoke it.
In terms of public concern, Gallup found that 45% of Americans are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the trend. That increases, however, when it comes to marijuana’s effects on young adults or teens who are regular users, with 75% of Americans saying they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned.
While supporters of legal marijuana claim it brings health benefits and increases tax revenue, critics of widespread marijuana consumption say it impairs short-term memory, increases engagement in risky behaviors and impairs driving.
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A 2022 report in Tablet notes that modern-day marijuana is unrecognizable to that of the 1960s. The now edible, vapeable, and drinkable cannabis-based products are far more potent than the weed of decades past. “Addiction medicine doctors and relatives of addicts say it has become a hardcore drug, like cocaine or methamphetamines,” Tablet reports. “Chronic use leads to the same outcomes commonly associated with those harder substances: overdose, psychosis, suicidality. And yet it’s been marketed as a kind of elixir and sold like candy for grown-ups.”
Since widespread legalization of recreational marijuana is a relatively recent phenomenon, there remains a shortage of long-term studies about the effects of increased consumption on society.