Marijuana popular among educated, middle-class Canadians: study

A variety of educated, middle-class Canadians are “making a conscious but careful choice to use marijuana” to relax or focus on leisure activities, say researchers behind a new study spotlighting pot smoking behind the nation’s picket fences. These people might drive minivans to their full-time jobs or run a household, but come time to unwind, it’s not Dr. Phil who’s calming their nerves.
“It’s an illegal activity, so it’s still something people do in secret, usually in the privacy of their own home,” says Geraint Osborne, whose study is published in the spring edition of the journal Substance Use and Misuse. “They’re a little reluctant to come forward and talk about it, using the phrase that they’re still ‘in the closet.'”

A qualitative study of 41 adult Canadians nationwide suggests people of all ages and educational backgrounds are lighting up. The University of Alberta’s Osborne and the University of Calgary’s Curtis Fogel led the study, which shows most of the participants smoke pot to loosen up or enhance various leisure activities.

“Music, television, movies, computer games, creative endeavours, the outdoors, sex – they find marijuana makes all those things more pleasurable,” says Osborne, an associate professor of sociology. “When they’re using it to relax, it’s typically being smoked when they come home from work. It might be while they’re preparing supper, or socializing with friends, or just having a few puffs before they go to bed.”

Study participants were predominantly middle-class and worked in white-collar jobs in industries such as health care, retail, social work, service and communications. And 68 per cent held post-secondary degrees, while another 11 per cent had earned high school diplomas.

A qualitative study involves a small sample size that yields a high amount of detailed information because interviews are face-to-face and in-depth. Osborne says the findings should be seen as preliminary exploratory research that provides a detailed snapshot of this demographic of marijuana user. “The movies focus on the average marijuana user as a burnout, a slacker. And certainly there are those people out there, but it’s not everyone,” says Osborne. “Eventually, I think we’re going to see its decriminalization and legalization, with the government taxing it and making money off it.”

The study also found its middle-class participants consider themselves responsible users of the drug, defined by “moderate use in an appropriate social setting and not allowing it to cause harm to others.” According to a survey released last month by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, we’re seeing the slow greying of the Canadian weed-toker and the average age of cannabis users has increased from 26 to 31 since 1977.

Ian Mulgrew, author of Bud Inc., says the trend has been wafting beneath academia’s radar for years and is only starting to surface because of increased cultural tolerance for the drug. A nationwide poll released this week showed 53 per cent of Canadians support the legalization of marijuana, while the United Nations 2007 World Drug Report revealed Canadians use more cannabis than any country in Europe, Asia or Latin America. “People are finally starting to recognize that judges and lawyers and cops and doctors and other people who hold responsible jobs in society like to have a reefer,” says Mulgrew, an award-winning writer from Vancouver.

The Fraser Institute estimates Canada’s marijuana industry is worth about $5.7 billion at the wholesale level. It is reportedly second only to construction, and ahead of forestry, in terms of its contribution to the gross domestic product of British Columbia.

Mulgrew says the trendiest pot paraphernalia – smokeless, and pricey, marijuana vaporizers – are largely targeted to health-conscious suburban dwellers that want to cut down on their inhalation of respiratory toxins and keep the odour of cannabis out of their upholstery. “We’re not talking about a 17-year-old buying a glass pipe and thinking it’s a big investment,” says Mulgrew. “These are smart people with the disposable income to buy what amounts to a $700 hookah.”

– Article from Canwest News Service