How Many Americans Regularly Use Cannabis?

Many marijuana users hide their stash in their closets. Most people who use marijuana are parents. There are almost as many marijuana users as there are cigarette smokers in the U.S.

Those facts and many more are among the conclusions of a new survey from Yahoo News and Marist University, which illustrates how pot has become a part of everyday life for millions of Americans.

The poll, titled Weed and the American Family, looks at everything from family views on marijuana use to regulation, entertainment, social acceptability, and more. And of course it comes just in time for the unofficial holiday of cannabis culture that falls on April 20th each year.

Nearly 55 million adults currently use marijuana

More than half of American adults have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, according to the survey. Nearly 55 million of them, or 22 percent, currently use it – the survey defines “current use” as having used marijuana at least once or twice in the past year. Close to 35 million are what the survey calls “regular users,” or people who use marijuana at least once or twice a month.

This is one of the survey’s most interesting findings: asked why they currently use marijuana, only 16 percent of smokers said it was “just to have fun.” The rest cited a variety of utilitarian reasons: 37 percent said they used marijuana to relax; 19 percent said they do it to relieve pain, 10 percent said it helps them be social.

Support for recreational marijuana may not be as robust as it seems

Public opinion surveys consistently show that support for marijuana legalization hovers around 60 percent. But most of those surveys don’t ask respondents what, exactly, legal marijuana means to them – they just ask whether marijuana should be legal or not.

People who have tried marijuana are much more approving of it than those who haven’t

Prior marijuana use is one of the biggest predictors of support for recreational marijuana legalization. Fully 70 percent of Americans who have tried marijuana at least once support legalizing recreational weed. Only 26 percent of those who haven’t tried it say the same. In short, people who have experience using marijuana generally think it should be legal.

Most Americans think smoking weed is ‘socially acceptable’

Regardless of whether they support legalization or use it themselves, 56 percent of Americans say that using marijuana is “socially acceptable,” compared to 42 percent who say it isn’t. Again, there’s a big split here between people who’ve tried it (74 percent say it’s acceptable) and people who haven’t (37 percent). MajoriAccording to Marist, 54 percent of adults who use marijuana are parents. A majority of those parents – 16 million of them – have children under the age of 18.

Childhood exposure has been a big talking point for opponents of marijuana legalization. States like Colorado have seen an uptick in the incidence of small children inadvertently eating marijuana edibles and having to go to the emergency room. In raw number terms, however, these cases are still very rare. Nationwide, poison control centers get calls for pediatric exposure to marijuana and alcohol at identical rates once you control for the total number of users of both substances.

In the Marist survey, 94 percent of marijuana-using parents of underage kids say they’ve never used it in front of their kids or shared it with them.

Americans say weed is less risky than tobacco, alcohol or painkillers

By a margin of 72 percent to 20 percent, Americans say that regular alcohol use is more of a health risk than regular marijuana use. The margins for tobacco (76 to 18) and prescription painkillers (67 to 20) are similar.

More than half of marijuana users are parents

 

According to Marist, 54 percent of adults who use marijuana are parents. A majority of those parents – 16 million of them – have children under the age of 18.

Childhood exposure has been a big talking point for opponents of marijuana legalization. States like Colorado have seen an uptick in the incidence of small children inadvertently eating marijuana edibles and having to go to the emergency room. In raw number terms, however, these cases are still very rare. Nationwide, poison control centers get calls for pediatric exposure to marijuana and alcohol at identical rates once you control for the total number of users of both substances.

In the Marist survey, 94 percent of marijuana-using parents of underage kids say they’ve never used it in front of their kids or shared it with them.

Marijuana users are very open about their habit with their significant others (95 percent of users have told them) and close friends (95 percent again). 72 percent have told their parents about their marijuana use, and 60 percent have told their kids.
Some families even toke together – 21 percent of users have either smoked marijuana in front of their parents or shared a joint with them. Among older users with adult children, 35 percent have smoked with or in front of their kids. Over 60 percent of users have done so with their close friends.

 

Millennials are the most social pot users – only 25 percent of them typically smoke alone. The rest usually share with significant others and friends. Older pot users are more likely to smoke alone: 40 percent of the over-35 crowd usually use marijuana by themselves.

55 million people say they currently use marijuana. That means there are nearly as many marijuana users as there are cigarette smokers (59 million). Randall Benton – Sacramento Bee file