Normalization is when something that was once considered deviant behavior becomes socially acceptable. When we take this definition and apply it to an illicit drug, we typically look for these indicators, originally proposed professor Howard Parker:

  • Increasing availability of the drug (and revenue in the United States)
  • Increasing use of a drug
  • More tolerant attitudes toward users
  • Presentation of drug cultures in TV, film and music
  • More liberal policy shifts

Now, let’s apply these indicators to marijuana in the United States.

Increasing Availability

Over the past 20 years or so, over a dozen states have passed legislation that decriminalizes possession of marijuana. A couple dozen states have passed cannabis legislation that provides for medical use, and several have even legalized recreational use of cannabis.

A 2015 study reports that legal cannabis is the fastest growing industry in the United States. The cannabis market grew 74 percent from 2013 to 2014 to a $2.7 billion industry, with an estimated 32 percent growth in 2015.

Now, patients who use marijuana to treat pain, physical or mental illness now have access to a medication that was not legal or feasible 20 years ago. Today, even non-medical patients can reap the benefits of the medicinal affects of marijuana.


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