Marijuana Addiction: Rates & Usage Statistics

This webpage features the most noteworthy marijuana statistics in the United States.

Highlights

55M
TThe number of American adults who currently use marijuana. (16.9%)
45%
The percentage of Americans who have tried marijuana at least once.
24%
The percentage of 12th-graders who have used marijuana in the past year. (2017)

General Statistics

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds. Marijuana is, by far, the most popular drug in America and arguably the most popular drug in the world. In fact, approximately half of Americans, some 78 million people, claimed to have used marijuana at some point in their lifetime.

The results of a Yahoo News/Marist national survey revealed that approximately 35 million Americans use marijuana on a monthly basis. In addition, 55 million Americans in total had reported using marijuana within the past year. This amount is actually higher than the number of active tobacco smokers, which is approximately 36.5 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That means there 50.68% more marijuana users than there are tobacco smokers.

A 2015 study by Jama Psychiatry concluded that marijuana’s popularity has risen considerably over the past decade. In 2001-02, 4.1% of Americans had claimed to have increased drug use within the past year. By 2015, that number had more than doubled to 9.1%.  This study also concluded that the number of individuals with marijuana use disorder had decreased from 35.6% to 30.6% between 2001 and 2013.

Marijuana is also widely accepted as being “less risky” than other substances like tobacco, alcohol, or painkillers. In fact, 72% of Americans say that regular alcohol use is more of a health risk than the regular use of marijuana. 76% of the population believe it is less harmful than tobacco and 67% believe the same in terms of prescription painkillers. Studies also show that more than half of Americans (at least 56%) believe using marijuana is “socially acceptable.

The rising popularity of the drug can be attributed to its growing acceptability in modern society. Marijuana may be considered “less harmful” due to the fact that there have been 0 marijuana-related overdoses ever reported, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Studies also show that marijuana is non-addictive. However, chronic users may develop a mental dependency, which can be categorized as a marijuana use disorder. A scientific article published in 2018 relays that approximately 10% of regular cannabis users develop a marijuana use disorder. Marijuana addiction is not possible, but it still leaves room for drug abuse.

Marijuana Use Among Youth


Statistics related to marijuana use among the nation’s youth are some of the most noteworthy and perhaps the most concerning. There are a number of new risks emerging in the community as marijuana becomes more and more popular, considering that studies show marijuana is being introduced/exposed to individuals at increasingly younger ages. In fact, almost 40% of high school students have reported trying marijuana, according to the CDC.


People who use marijuana prior to the age of 12 are twice as likely to develop a mental illness compared to those who first use marijuana at age 18 or older.


Strikingly, almost 53% of marijuana users (current or prior) 18 or older report first using marijuana between the ages of 12-17. About 2% of these individuals report that they first used marijuana before the age of 12.  Many argue that smoking marijuana will lead to a future of substance abuse.

Despite this, the most recent Monitoring the Future Survey demonstrated that marijuana use has declined among 8th graders over the past five years to 0.7%. Among 12th graders, 6% continue to report daily use, which corresponds to about 1 in 16 high school seniors. Among all grades, disapproval of marijuana and perceptions of harm continue to decrease. A smaller percentage of 8th and 10th graders think that regular marijuana use is harmful, and fewer 10th and 12th graders disapprove of regular marijuana use.

To add on, only 29% of 12th graders report that regular marijuana use poses a great risk and only 14.1% believe it is harmful to use marijuana from time to time. Although disapproval among 12th graders remains somewhat high, with 64.7% reporting they disapprove of adults smoking marijuana regularly.

In 2017, daily marijuana use exceeded daily cigarette use among 8th (0.8% vs. 0.6%), 10th (2.9% vs. 2.2%) and 12th (5.9% vs. 4.2%) graders. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), this is the first year in which daily marijuana use appeared to outpace daily cigarette use among 8th graders. This transition occurred in 10th graders in 2014 and in 12th graders in 2015, reflecting a steep decline in daily cigarette use and fairly stable daily marijuana use.

Marijuana also puts young adults at risk for more accidents. In fact, 19% of teen drivers have reported driving under the influence of marijuana. It is the most common illicit drug found in drivers who die in accidents (around 14% of drivers), though often combined with alcohol or other drugs.

As mentioned previously, marijuana use that begins at an early age puts individuals at risk for mental illness. Research shows girls (ages 14-15) who used marijuana daily were 5 times more likely to suffer from depression at age 21. Daily use in young women is also associated with a significant increase in the chance of reporting a state of depression and anxiety. 13% of of young users will become dependent on the drug.

Marijuana can also negatively affect cognitive function, with regular use potentially causing a drop in IQ of up to 8 points. Studies show that 3,300 teens try weed for the first time every day, which showcases its distinct prevalence among youth.

Legalization of Marijuana

Over the years, marijuana legalization has become a hot topic of debate in U.S. politics. Currently, you can legally use marijuana recreationally in 10 states (20% of the nation). The rise of marijuana for medical use has contributed greatly to the increasing acceptance of the drug. Almost 30 states (56% of the country) have legalized medical marijuana. More and more people are using the drug as the social stigma attached to it diminishes.


Legal marijuana has been making great economic strides as well. In 2016, the legal marijuana industry made between $4-$4.5 billion. In 2017, the industry made $10 billion — a 30% increase in the span of one year. It is one of the fastest growing businesses, with a 26% compound growth rate each year.


Analytic results predict that the legal marijuana industry could be worth $50 billion by 2026.


Studies also show that more than half of Americans (at least 56%) believe using marijuana is “socially acceptable. Many public opinion surveys also report that 60% of Americans support legal marijuana. However, this does not set up adequate parameters for specific, correct data. The 2017 Yahoo/Marist Survey asked questions on recreational use and medical marijuana separately. It discovered that about 83% of Americans support the legalization of medical marijuana.

When it came to the question of recreational marijuana legalization, there was a division amongst individuals. However, many states have already legalized the drug for recreational use. These states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. People can purchase marijuana from dispensaries in these states and use marijuana in a regulated manner.

Data shows that Americans are leaning toward the supportive side of recreational marijuana. Other data has revealed that people who have tried marijuana are much more likely to approve of it.

70% of people who have tried marijuana support recreational legalization, while 26% of those who haven’t, oppose to it. However, despite this widespread support, most marijuana users are not keen on admitting use is “just for fun.” Survey results revealed utilitarian answers to the question, “Why do you use marijuana?”

Crime

Despite the widespread usage and acceptance of marijuana, as well as its legalization in parts of the country, marijuana arrests sill account for a high number of arrests. According to the ACLU’s original analysis, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. The Washington Post explicates that, in 2016, more people were arrested for marijuana possession than for all crimes the FBI classifies as violent, according to a 2016 crime report.

Over the past years, arrests typically involved simple drug possession offenses, which accounted for 85-90% of all drug arrests. Small-time marijuana possession arrests accounted for around 40%. That means, out of 1.5 million drug arrests last year, approximately 1.3 million of them were not drug kingpins, major dealers, or cartel members.

Sources

  1. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/topic-pages/tables/table-18
  2. https://www.businessinsider.com/where-can-you-can-legally-smoke-weed-2018-1#washington-dc-10
  3. https://www.cnn.com/2015/10/22/us/marijuana-use-up/index.html
  4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/04/19/11-charts-that-show-marijuana-has-truly-gone-mainstream/?utm_term=.d7f940870265
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/adult_data/cig_smoking/