Gallup data shows that almost half of US adults have tried cannabis.
Almost half of adults in the United States said they have tried marijuana, according to the results of a new Gallup Poll released on Tuesday. At 49 percent, the figure is the highest that Gallup has recorded in its more than 50 years of asking Americans about their cannabis use.
When Gallup first began surveying Americans about cannabis in 1969, only four percent of adults said that they had tried marijuana. Since that time the rate has increased steadily, rising to more than 20 percent in the 1977 survey. Roughly a third of adults surveyed in 1985 said that they had tried cannabis, and by 2015 the percentage had surpassed 40 percent. Gallup noted that much of the increase in marijuana experimentation reported over the last 50 years can be explained by generational patterns in the United States.
“The oldest Americans living today, those born before 1945 whom Gallup calls ‘traditionalists,’ are much less likely than those in other birth cohorts to have tried marijuana, with just 19% saying they have done so. That compares with about half of millennials (51%), Generation Xers (49%, and baby boomers (50%),” the polling organization wrote in its report on the survey.
The generational data on marijuana use trends was taken from Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits surveys from 2015 to 2021. Gallup noted that it does not yet have enough information on the trends of Generation Z, the oldest of whom are only 24 years old now. This year’s Consumption Habits poll was conducted from July 6 to 21.
Only 12 percent of those surveyed said that they “smoked marijuana,” a percentage that has held steady since 2017. In 2013, the first year Gallup asked if respondents smoked marijuana, only seven percent replied in the affirmative. The figure rose steadily to 11 percent by 2015 before peaking at 13 percent in 2016. Gallup did not ask the poll’s respondents if they consumed marijuana in any way other than smoking.
Gallup Data: Marijuana Use Higher Among Younger Americans
While the percentage of those who said they have tried marijuana varies little among baby boomers and subsequent generations, Gallup noted that younger Americans are more likely to say that they currently smoke marijuana. The combined data from 2015 to 2021 show that about 20 percent of millenials smoke marijuana. For Gen Xers the figure is 11 percent, while nine percent of baby boomers and only one percent of traditionalists say they currently smoke pot.
In addition to differences by age, the survey revealed that the rate of marijuana use varied among other demographic groups including gender, education, and political orientation. While 16 percent of men said that they smoked marijuana, only nine percent of women said the same. Only five percent with a postgraduate education said that they smoked cannabis, compared to 14 percent of those with a four-year college degree or less education. And those who are politically liberal (22 percent) and Democrats (15 percent) were more likely than conservatives (six percent) and Republicans (seven percent) to say they currently smoked marijuana.
In its analysis of the generational patterns revealed by the survey, Gallup noted that the percentage of Americans who say they have tried cannabis might not rise much higher than 50 percent, despite the upward trend that has been recorded to date.
“The percentage of Americans who have tried marijuana has steadily climbed in recent decades,” Gallup wrote. “Soon it should reach 50 percent, but it may not get much higher than that given the rates of experimentation have been steady around 50 percent in Gen Xers and among baby boomers. Half of millennials have also tried marijuana, and with many in that group approaching middle age, that proportion seems unlikely to increase in future years.”
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.