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Working Folks



People who use cannabis have jobs.

Is this surprising? It shouldn’t be surprising, except for the popular slur about marijuana making people lazy. One of the popular lies about marijuana use in the 1970s, for example, is that it caused something called “amotivational syndrome” in teenagers.

According to the data in the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, just under 60 percent of the people who do not use marijuana are employed (full-time or part-time) or are in school. To be precise, 59.3 percent of the people who did not use marijuana in the last month were working or in school, and for those who did not use marijuana in the last year the figure was 58.7 percent.

Statistics and surveys are tricky things to understand. So, to be clear, here is what these stats indicate. Separate all the people who do not use marijuana into one category. Of all these people, how many of them are working or in school?  The answer is that about 60 percent of them fit this description.

Now, take all the people who use marijuana. How many of them are working or in school? Well, the simple answer is this—more.

Looking at people who used marijuana in the last month, 68.9 percent were working full-time, part-time or were in school. Looking at those who used marijuana in the last year, it turns out that 69.4 percent were working or in school. In rough terms, about 70 percent of them fit this description.

There are people who do not use marijuana who occasionally read High Times, and they will be confused by this data. So here it is again, stated plainly. More marijuana users work than non-users. Seventy percent of marijuana users work or attend school, while only 60 percent of non-users work or attend school.

It must be a trick, that’s what the skeptics will argue. Ah, it must be because of students, right? After all, lots of students use marijuana. There is some truth to this, but taking students out of the statistic doesn’t really change the result.

First of all, the category here is in school or in training. Second, this category does account for a larger share of marijuana users than non-users. Take monthly marijuana users for example, 5.8 percent of them are in school, compared to 4.2 percent of non-users. With annual marijuana users, 6.6 percent are in school compared to 4 percent of non-users. There is a difference here, but not enough to change the big picture.

Well then, it must be because of part-time workers, right? They are too stoned to hold down a full-time job, that’s what the skeptics will think. Ah… no. Among monthly marijuana users, 16.4 percent have part-time jobs compared to 11.2 percent of non- users, and 16.9 percent of annual marijuana users have a part time job compared to 10.8 percent of non-users. Still not enough to change the big picture.

When it comes to having a full-time job, 46.7 percent of monthly marijuana users have one compared to 43.9 percent of non-users. Looking at annual marijuana users, 45.9 percent have a full-time job compared to 43.9 percent of non-users.

Cannabis users are working folks.

There are some interesting differences in the prevalence of the types of jobs when comparing marijuana users to non-users. Generally, there is not much difference to comparing the jobs of non-marijuana uses to either annual or monthly marijuana users. The comparison here will utilize data on people who have used marijuana in the last month.

When it comes to executives and managers, they make up 14.9 percent of non-users compared to 10.7 percent of marijuana users, and those in professional positions (but not education or entertainment) account for 12.9 percent of non-users compared to 7.6 percent of users. When it comes to entertainers, sports, media and communications, these people account for 2 percent of non-users compared to 3.8 percent on marijuana users.

The occupations that account for higher percentages of the marijuana user group include sales (12.4 percent of the users and 10.3 percent of non-users), service workers with 20.6 percent of users compared to 13 percent of non-users (and this category does not include protective service occupations), construction trades (9.9 percent of users compared to 5.1 percent of non-users) and transportation and material moving workers (7.1 percent of users compared to 5.8 percent of non-users).

Generally, marijuana use is more prevalent among blue-collar workers, but not by as much as one might think when it comes to the old slur that marijuana use makes someone lazy and incompetent. Taking five categories that could be considered white-collar jobs, this group accounts for 41.4 percent of non-marijuana users compared to 28.9 percent of marijuana users. Looking at annual marijuana use rather than monthly use, 32.5 percent of annual users have white-collar jobs compared to 41.4 percent of non-users.

Like all Americans, people who use marijuana work, and they work in a variety of positions.

The type of job they have likely has a lot more to do with their education and training than whether or not they use marijuana. This should not be a surprise to anyone who knows anything about marijuana use.

If it is a surprise to people who oppose legalization, it’s another indication of how far out of touch they are with reality.

Jon Gettman is the Cannabis Policy Director for High Times. Jon has a Ph.D. in public policy, teaching undergraduate criminal justice and graduate level management courses. A long-time contributor to High Times, his research and analytical work has been used by NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, American’s for Safe Access, the Drug Policy Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations. Jon’s research contributions to the topic of marijuana law reform have included findings on the economic value of domestic marijuana cultivation, attempts to have marijuana rescheduled under federal law and racial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates. Serving as NORML’s National Director in the late 1980s, he was instrumental in creating NORML’s activist program.