How Has Marijuana Use Across the U.S. Changed?

As public opinion surrounding marijuana is at an all-time high and legalization trends continue, there has been a noticeable increase in marijuana usage in the United States. This article will explore the upward trend of marijuana use rates.

Public Opinion About Marijuana

As states across the U.S. have legalized marijuana — whether for medicinal use only or for medical and recreational consumption — its use has become more mainstream. According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 16% of adults in the United States consume marijuana regularly — up from previous years —  and 48% of adults in the United States report that they have tried marijuana at least once. Further, Pew Research reports that 88% of Americans think that marijuana should be legalized.

Combine these social trends with the fact that marijuana use is legal — whether for low THC programs, medicinal use only, or fully legalized —  in almost all states and it is easy to see how marijuana has become the third most commonly used addictive substance behind alcohol and nicotine, and the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States.

What Changes the Public’s Perception About Marijuana

Public perception about marijuana has shifted a great deal over the decades. In the 1960s, Americans were almost universally opposed to the legalization of cannabis products. Widespread media campaigns promoting the legalization are likely at the root of the shift.

According to the data, a great majority of people polled about the legalization cite that its effects seem to be less harmful than other substances, including alcohol. Furthermore, they cite the benefits of marijuana use to cancer and other seriously ill patients.

How Do People Use Marijuana?

The legalization or decriminalization of marijuana use has lead to a greater variety of access to cannabis products. For instance, people who might otherwise skip smoking marijuana might try an edible product.

Today, marijuana can be found in numerous forms, such as:

  • Marijuana Wax — This is a highly concentrated form of cannabis that can be a sticky gummy liquid, soft butter-like substance (sometimes referred to as “butter” or “budder”), or hard yellow resin. Wax is also referred to as honeycomb, due to its appearance.
  • Marijuana Dabs — A highly concentrated cannabis extract or hash oil.
  • Shatter — This is a solid translucent concentrated cannabis extract that gets its appearance through a specific process involving solvents like butane.
  • Vape pens — Cannabis oils can be distilled into a vape liquid.
  • Edibles — These are consumable products like baked goods or candy that contain marijuana.

Marijuana Use by State

Using data from the respective years’ National Survey on Drug Use and Health, we compiled the percentage of the population over 18 years old who have used marijuana in the last year. Additionally, we calculated the percent change in each state’s marijuana usage rate from 2014-2017. Read on to discover the interesting trends we found.

First, we looked at the rate of marijuana use among each state’s adult population. All 50 U.S. states have seen an overall percentage increase in marijuana use from 2014 – 2017, with the largest percent changes occurring in Oregon (13.5%), Washington D.C. (11.7%), and Alaska (9.8%). 

One of the biggest spikes in usage from year to year occurred in Washington D.C., which legalized recreational marijuana use in 2014, and then saw a spike in marijuana usage of 8.63% from 2014 to 2015. A similar trend unfolded in Oregon, which legalized recreational marijuana use in 2014 and then saw a usage increase of 8.68% from 2014 to 2015. These findings would seem to suggest that legalization of recreational marijuana usage leads to spikes in overall use. 

On the other end of the spectrum, we observed the lowest overall percent change in marijuana usage rates from 2014 – 2017 in Georgia (1.9%), Alabama (2.6%), and Arizona (2.9%). While medicinal marijuana is legal to some extent in these states, marijuana usage remains criminalized, which could account for the low usage rates, or simply low reporting due to fear of legal repercussions.

We observed some interesting regional trends when it comes to marijuana usage in the adult population. In the Northeast and most of the Midwest, marijuana usage comes in at about 12.00 – 14.99% of the population. In the Southeast, as well as Texas, marijuana usage is slightly smaller at 9.00 – 11.99%. 

We found it interesting that in the Pacific Northwest, marijuana usage fluctuates quite significantly, from 27.00 – 30.00% in Oregon to 21.00 – 23.99 % in Washington to only 12.00 – 14.99% in Idaho. Idaho is one of the only states in the western part of the United States to still fully criminalize marijuana. Of all the states where marijuana is fully legalized, usage was lowest in Michigan, at 16.9%.

An important question that comes along with the trend of marijuana legalization is whether this legislation increases overall marijuana usage, which brings us to our next insight from the study.

Marijuana Legalization and Use Rates

2014- 2017 was an eventful time for marijuana-based legislation, and as it turns out, marijuana use reflects these changes in legislation. In those three years, states like New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia legalized medical cannabis. Following that legislation, those states saw a percent change in marijuana use close to the total U.S. percent change in cannabis use of 4.9% – New York’s marijuana usage increased by 4.2%, Minnesota by 4.7%, Pennsylvania by 4.2%, Ohio by 5.1%, and West Virginia by 5.2%.

On the other hand, as we saw with Oregon and the District of Columbia, legalizing recreational marijuana use had a staggering impact on marijuana usage, both of those states experiencing a more than 8% increase in a single year. 

Getting Help for Marijuana Misuse and Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with dependence on or addiction to marijuana, there is help. At our inpatient drug rehab in Etta, MS, we help people all over the Southern United States get on the road to recovery and back to living the life they deserve.

For more information about our different levels of addiction treatment, contact our compassionate and knowledgeable admissions navigators at . They’re on hand 24/7 to answer any of your questions, including about what to expect in treatment, how to start the rehab admission process, and using your insurance to pay for rehab.

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