Despite a new study that dispels the myth that marijuana users are “lazy potheads,” some in Wyoming remain steadfast in opposing any use of it.
Count Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, among them.
“We don’t need another vice in our society,” he said, adding that “we can hardly get people to work already.”
He said regardless of any tax revenue that might be generated from legal marijuana sales, the cost for law enforcement, increased hospitalization and demand for social services would negate any gains for the state.
Laursen also is opposed to allowing medical uses of marijuana because he said it would just be a gateway to legalized recreational use.
“I’m OK being the bastion of the states that don’t allow it,” Laursen said.
Myth vs. Perception
While the stereotype has been marijuana users are unmotivated and apathetic, a new University of Cambridge study concludes cannabis users are no more apathetic than their non-using counterparts.
“Unfair assumptions can be stigmatizing and could get in the way of messages around harm reduction,” said Martine Skumlien, the study’s lead author. “We need to be honest and frank about what are and are not the harmful consequences of drug use.”
Researchers recruited 274 adolescent and adult cannabis users who had used at least weekly over the three months an average of four days per week and matched them with non-users of the same age and gender.
The study examined whether participants had higher loss of motivation or interest in gaining pleasure from rewards. The measures were then compared to non-users. Similar studies, the authors note, also found little to no difference between the motivation level of users and non-users.
“We’re so used to seeing ‘lazy stoners’ on our [television] screens that we don’t stop to ask whether they’re an accurate representation of cannabis users,” Skumlien said. “Our work implies that this is in itself a lazy stereotype and that people who use cannabis are no more likely to lack motivation or be lazier than people who don’t.”
In a statement on the study, the authors note there’s considerable concern of the potential long-term impact of cannabis use on adolescents, whose brains are still developing.
The study isn’t the final word on marijuana’s impact on motivation. A 2018 study published in Prevention Science found that “cannabis use was a significant predictor of lower initiative and persistence over a one-month period in the study.”
Wyoming and Idaho remain the only Western states that still outlaw both medical and recreational marijuana. Surrounding the Cowboy State, Montana, Utah, South Dakota and Utah allow medical use, while Colorado allows both medical and recreational pot. In 19 states, as well as Washington, D.C., marijuana consumers can legally buy the drug.
Two bills in this year’s Wyoming legislative session that would have reduced penalties for possession were submitted but never introduced, and a push to put legalization in the hands of voters in November failed to collect enough signatures before the deadline.
Yet, a 2020 University of Wyoming poll found that 54% of Wyoming residents support allowing adults to legally possess marijuana for personal use, which was an increase from 37% in 2014. Three-quarters of Wyoming residents don’t believe that people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should serve time in jail, and 85% said they’d support allowing people to use the drug if a doctor prescribes it.
Island of Prohibition
Rep. Mark Baker, R-Sweetwater, was the director of Wyoming Norml, which sponsored a ballot initiative that didn’t get enough signatures to qualify in time to go to voters in November. Baker attributes much of the state’s opposition to pot to Wyoming’s tendency to adhere to tradition. He doesn’t think misperceptions about the impacts of use have much influence over decision-makers.
“I think people at this point are starting to see … with the access that’s available in other areas … some of this stuff be debunked, whether it’s through studies or just reality,” Baker said.
Baker said he doesn’t think anything will change in Wyoming until marijuana laws on a federal level change, where it remains illegal.
“There’s a huge apprehension within the Wyoming Legislature to move on this issue, just simply because of the federal government,” Baker said.
As to whether he thinks marijuana use contributes to laziness, Baker said the people he knows who use it are not unemployed or fit the “lazy pothead” stereotype.
“There are a lot of things that go into play when we’re talking about motivation and things like that, but personally I haven’t seen it,” Baker said.