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Americans Use Marijuana At Nearly The Same Rate In Legal And Non-Legal States, Suggesting Criminalization Doesn’t ‘Curtail’ Consumption, Gallup Poll Finds



Rates of marijuana use are nearly the same in states that have legalized versus those that maintain prohibition, which suggests that “criminalization does little to curtail its use,” a new Gallup survey found.

As advocates have long pointed out, debates about the merits of legalization often ignore the fact that the war on drugs has not stopped people from using cannabis. The difference largely comes down to whether the products are regulated by states or not. And the Gallup polling data released on Thursday reinforces that point.

Overall, one in 10 American adults say they’ve used marijuana 10 or more times in the past month, while one in five have used cannabis at least once in the past month.

Gallup shared more granular data from the survey with Marijuana Moment on Thursday, revealing that six percent of people reported using cannabis every day, four percent consumed 10-29 days of the last month, five percent used 3-9 days, five percent used 1-2 days and 81 percent didn’t consume any cannabis.

Broken down by state legal status, Gallup found that 9.7 percent of adults identify as regular cannabis consumers in states that have enacted legalization, compared to 8.6 percent in non-legal states.

“The narrow gap in cannabis consumption among residents of states where it remains illegal compared with those in states where it is legal suggests that its criminalization does little to curtail its use among American adults,” the research firm said.

Among people who reported using marijuana 10 or more times in the past month, there are no differences in consumption rates between adults aged 18-29, 30-39 and 40-49, all of which average at 12 percent. A smaller portion of adults 50-64 use marijuana regularly (8 percent), followed by those 65+ (6 percent).

Via Gallup.

While average use is comparable between legal and non-legal states, there are “statistically significant differences in consumption trends based on region, with the highest usage rates observed in the Middle Atlantic (New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey). Only Pennsylvania has maintained prohibition for adult use.

Eleven percent of adults in the East North Central divisions (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio) use cannabis regularly. In that region, Wisconsin and Indiana continue to prohibit marijuana.

Notably, the usage rate in the West (California, Oregon and Washington State) is slightly lower, at 10 percent, despite all three states having established adult-use cannabis markets.

Via Gallup.

“The lowest usage rates (7 percent) are reported in the East South Central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama) and the West North Central (North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri) divisions,” Gallup said.

The survey accounted for the fact that people now consume marijuana through a variety of methods, asking respondents to answer “how many days in the last month have you used cannabis products (such as smoking marijuana, vaping liquid THC, or consuming baked goods or gummies) to alter your mood and help you relax?”

That caveat about the intention behind use could potentially skew the findings, as there’s a wide variety of reasons beyond mood alteration and relaxation that people use cannabis. For example, it’s commonly used to stimulate appetite or for medical purposes.

The survey involved interviews with 6,386 U.S. adults from November 30, 2023 to December 8, 2023.

While a minority of Americans report regularly using marijuana, polls have consistently found that there’s increasingly bipartisan majority support for legalizing cannabis.

For example, nine in 10 Americans say marijuana should be legal for recreational or medical purposes, a Pew Research Center poll that was released last month found. And most agree that legalization bolsters local economies and makes the criminal justice system more fair.

A separate Gallup poll from last November found that support for marijuana legalization reached a new record high nationally, with seven in 10 Americans—including a sizable majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents—backing an end to prohibition.

Another survey released last month found that a strong majority of voters in three states—including more than 60 percent of Republicans—support congressional legislation to protect states’ rights to set their own marijuana laws.

Pew also released a separate report in February that found eight in 10 Americans now live in a county with at least one marijuana dispensary. The analysis also shows that high concentrations of retailers often “cluster” near borders abutting other states that have “less permissive cannabis laws”—indicating that there’s a large market of people who live in still-criminalized jurisdictions who cross state lines to purchase regulated products.

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Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

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