Marijuana comes in many, many varieties, and so do the people who use it. Some are dedicated stoners. Some are weekend puffers. And some still hide the remnants of a dime bag they bought on a whim in 2001.

Man Smoking Marijuana from PipeIt’s no stretch to say, then, that every toker has his or her individualized reasons for using cannabis. But what are the most common? Why, exactly, has everyone and his brother taken such a sudden interest in your favorite drug? Here are a few thoughts.

Medicine

Even little old ladies terrified of junkie boogeymen have to acknowledge a lot of people get medical benefits from consuming marijuana. THC and CBD, the two key chemicals found in the cannabis plant, both have a wide range of medicinal applications.

THC, for example, can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and the nausea that accompanies cancer therapies. CBD is most famously helpful in treating severe seizure disorders, especially cases of chronic childhood epilepsy.

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AIDS. Multiple sclerosis. Tourette’s syndrome. Alzheimer’s disease. These are among the many other disorders that respond well to marijuana – in some patients. Everyone’s experience is different, but millions of people have reported benefits.

Thirty-three states, the District of Columbia, and at least two U.S. territories now allow some form of medicinal marijuana. Some permit only CBD preparations, which don’t get users high, while others have adopted “whole plant” programs that permit use of any part of the plant.

Recreation

Call it what you will, recreation or personal use, fun is by far the most common reason people smoke up. Recreational possession and use are legal only in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Washington State, and the District of Columbia, but legalization is sure to continue its rapid spread across the country.

The market for recreational cannabis is massive, far bigger than medical marijuana. The black market alone generates billions of dollars in revenue each year, while the states with legal cannabis are raking in cash by the millions.

Of course, recreational users have to pay higher taxes than medical patients. This creates incentives for stoners to cheat the system by pretending to be sick – though this hasn’t proved to be a serious problem yet.

Expect to see California, New York, Rhode Island, Nevada, Massachusetts, and/or Maine legalize in coming months. Several reform petitions are likely to be on the ballot next November, and public support for legal recreational marijuana is strong.

Faith

Marijuana LeavesBelieve it or not, some religious folks take their cannabis seriously. Very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that they’ve made it a holy sacrament. The First Church of Cannabis, located in Indiana, was fittingly the first faith-based group to unite marijuana and faith, in the open.

Earlier this year, the church sued Indiana over the state’s cannabis ban. Any possession is illegal there, whether for recreational, medicinal, or sacred purposes. The church claims that prohibition infringes on its First Amendment right to exercise religious beliefs freely.

Don’t be surprised to see more such groups pop up around the country. Faith and politics have always been joined at the hip in the United States, if only uncomfortably, and religious arguments tend to hold a great deal of sway with judges and juries. In some places, that could make the difference between reform and the status quo.

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