Marijuana Addiction: Rates & Usage Statistics

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

Highlights

55M
The 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.

  • 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.
  • The 55 million 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 are 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.
  • According to the study, 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%.
  • The 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 Use in the United States

Popularity of Marijuana

The rising popularity of marijuana can be attributed to its growing acceptability in modern society. Marijuana is widely accepted as being “less risky” than other substances like tobacco, alcohol, or painkillers. 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).

  • 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 marijuana is less harmful than tobacco.
  • 67% believe the marijuana is less harmful than prescription painkillers.
  • Studies also show that more than half of Americans (at least 56%) believe using marijuana is “socially acceptable”.
  • 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 Use Among Youth

Statistics related to marijuana use among the nation’s youth are some of the most noteworthy and perhaps the most concerning. Among all grades, disapproval of marijuana and perceptions of harm continue to decrease. Studies show that 3,300 teens try weed for the first time every day, which showcases its distinct prevalence among youth. There are a number of new risks emerging in the community as marijuana becomes more and more popular, considering that marijuana is being introduced/exposed to individuals at increasingly younger ages. Many argue that smoking marijuana will lead to a future of substance abuse.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Only 29% of 12th graders report that regular marijuana use poses a great risk.
  • 14.1% of 12th graders believe it is harmful to use marijuana from time to time.
  • However, disapproval among 12th graders remains somewhat high – 64.7% reported they disapprove of adults smoking marijuana regularly.

 

Teen Substance Abuse by Drug

The Effects of Marijuana on Teenagers

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.

  • 19% of teen drivers have reported driving under the influence of marijuana.
  • Marijuana is the most common illicit drug found in drivers who die in accidents (around 14% of drivers), though it is 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.

Legalization of Marijuana

Over the years, marijuana legalization has become a hot topic of debate in U.S. politics. 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.  Currently, you can legally use marijuana recreationally in 18 states (36% of the nation). The rise of marijuana for medical use has contributed greatly to the increasing acceptance of the drug. 36 states (72% 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.
  • 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.
  • 70% of people who have tried marijuana support recreational legalization.
  • 26% of those who haven’t tried marijuana oppose it.

People Who Have Tried Marijuana vs. People Who Haven’t

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.
  • Over the past few years, 85-90% of all drug arrests involved simple drug possession offenses.
  • 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 related to marijuana.
  • 92 – The number of people sentenced to federal prison for marijuana possession in 2017.
  • 1% – Percentage of all federal inmates jailed for drug possession in 2012.
  • 600K+ – The number of people arrested for marijuana possession in 2016.
  • 59% – The percent of people in federal prison for marijuana-related charges in 2012 that were Hispanic.

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/