Shauna Miller is a writer based in Washington, D.C. She is the former managing editor of CityLab.
There's zero indication that the availability of legal weed will somehow be worse for lower income users.
The vast majority of marijuana users in the U.S. do not hold college degrees, according to an analysis of data from the federal government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by Carnegie Mellon University's Jonathan Caulkins. "College grads account for only about one-in-six days of [marijuana] use," Caulkins told the Washington Post, which noted this is "the common measurement for national marijuana use."
Vox's German Lopez connects the dots to an important conclusion: that the wider decriminalization of pot therefore might especially benefit poorer populations. He cites Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project, who notes that criminal records based on marijuana arrests limit employment options even further for those with less education.
This is certainly true, but Lopez also points to arguments promoted by those especially opposed to the commercialization of legal weed. "If pot is legalized, and retail sales and widespread commercialization make it more accessible, it could be easier for problematic pot users to obtain the drug," he writes, "and it's going to be very difficult for them to rise to their potential if they're frequently intoxicated."
The same case could be made against alcohol, of course. Interestingly, the numbers on booze from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health are the flip side of those on marijuana. The study shows that 69.2 percent of college graduates were current drinkers, and that "among adults aged 18 or older, the rate of past-month alcohol use increased with increasing levels of education."
Alcohol, legal and widely available, comes in a variety of price and quality ranges. So does pot. And since most marijuana users are more likely to have modest incomes, according to the data, they are likelier to consume less expensive grades of pot than more-educated higher earners.
That is perhaps the most compelling takeaway from this study, certainly more than postulating that people with lower educational attainment are somehow more likely to lack self control in the face of available legal weed and fall into Maynard G. Krebs beatnik uselessness. As legal markets for marijuana become more widely available, high- and low-end products will naturally emerge. People of all income and education levels will have to use their own judgement on whether or not to use it, how often, and whether they want to save up and spring for the good stuff or smoke cheaper options.