Attitudes around marijuana have changed fast in America—too fast for the laws to keep up. Though consumers bought $6.7 billion worth of legal marijuana in 2016, in more than 90 percent of America, a legitimate marijuana marketplace is still just a nice idea.
Not that that’s keeping Americans from getting stoned. At all. Far from it.
More than 10 percent of Americans admit to using marijuana at least once a year, according to the most recent data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, including in states where mere possession is a misdemeanor crime. And many of the 22.3 million Americans who use marijuana at least once a month live in states where the only place for adults to buy any is on the black market.
That’s a powerful habit, one the nation’s three stoniest states—Colorado, Alaska and Vermont—can’t deny.
In these three places, between 20 and 24 percent of people aged 12 and over used cannabis at least once a year in 2014-2015, according to survey data observed by the Washington Post.
And only one of them—Colorado, still the national leader in retail cannabis, with sales on pace to exceed $1 billion in that state alone, according to recent figures—had legitimate recreational cannabis sales in those years. Alaska’s recreational cannabis stores opened their doors just this fall and in Vermont, the only legal weed comes from one of the state’s four medical marijuana dispensaries.
Also breaking the 20 percent mark is Washington, D.C., where there’s enough weed lying around for local advocates to roll 4,200 joints to hand out at Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
That’s more than double the national average, the Post reported, and there are plenty more states that are close to that mark. Predictably, most of them are on the West Coast or in New England, the two areas of the country that routinely report to consume the most marijuana, the Post noted. (As it happens, New Englanders also tend to drink a lot. Not much else to do in the winter.)
Remember, this all happened in 2014-2015, before polls showing 60 percent support for legalization became routine. And also note that the survey data is self-reported, meaning it depends on people being honest about their drug habits—meaning it’s at the mercy of people self-consciously lying. Once those attitudes change—and once people can take their newfound honesty down to the local cannabis store—look for the numbers to grow further.
That said, it doesn’t look like the West Coast and Northeast will lose their stoner crowns anytime soon. All of the four states that legalized in November are in one of the two places—which also rank consistently well on health and wellness indices, as well as household earnings. It’s almost as if marijuana is part of a healthy and successful lifestyle.
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