Gallup: 17% of American Adults Smoke Pot

The percentage of adults in the United States who say they smoke marijuana has inched up steadily over the last decade, according to newly published survey data from Gallup.

Seventeen percent of Americans aged 18 and older reported smoking pot in 2023. That is largely unchanged from Gallup’s most recent findings on the matter. In 2022, 16% of American adults said they smoke marijuana. 

But the 17% figure represents a marked increase since 2013, when Gallup first added the question to its annual survey measuring Americans’ consumption habits.

That year, a mere seven percent of American adults identified as marijuana smokers. 

“Age is a significant driver of the likelihood of smoking marijuana. About a quarter of young adults, those aged 18 to 34, say they smoke marijuana (26%), but reported use falls to 18% among adults aged 35 to 54 and is even lower, 11%, among adults aged 55 and older,” Gallup said in its analysis. 

Gallup noted other divides in the responses along gender, education level and party identification. 

“Men (19%) are more likely than women (14%) to use marijuana,” the pollster explained. “College graduates (9%) are about half as likely as those without a college degree (21%) to smoke marijuana. Democrats (22%) are more likely than Republicans (12%) to report smoking marijuana, with independents’ rate (17%) falling between them.”

The survey also included a separate question concerning previous marijuana use. On this, half of American adults––50%––said they have tried cannabis.

“Gallup’s much longer trend on ever having tried marijuana shows that experimentation increased sharply in the first decade after the initial measure. Between 1969 and 1977, it jumped 20 percentage points, from 4% to 24%. It rose another nine points by 1985, to 33%, but thereafter stalled at under 40% until 2015, when it ticked up to 44%. It remained at about that level through 2019 but then rose to 49% in 2021, roughly where it is today,” Gallup said.

Gallup’s polling on Americans’ attitudes toward marijuana has captured a country undergoing a seachange when it comes to drug policy.

In November, Gallup published a poll revealing that seven in 10 Americans believe marijuana use should be legal, which was “the highest level yet after holding steady at 68% for three years.”

Gallup explained that only 12% of Americans supported legalization when it asked about it in 1969. 

But ever since states took the lead and ended pot prohibition nearly 12 years ago, public opinion has shifted dramatically.

“Support cracked the 50% threshold in 2013, jumping 10 percentage points to 58% after Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana,” Gallup said in its analysis. “Support has since increased by another 12 points, paralleling the rise in Americans’ self-reported use of the drug. According to Gallup’s July Consumption Habits survey, the percentage saying they personally smoke marijuana has risen 10 points to 17% since 2013, and the percentage who have ever tried it has increased 12 points to 50%.”

The poll also marked the second consecutive year in which “majority support for legalization is found among all major subgroups, including by age, political party and ideology,” Gallup said.

“Self-identified conservatives were the last major subgroup to express majority support, reaching 51% in 2022. Republicans first gave marijuana majority-level backing in 2017. As of today, support for legal marijuana use is highest among self-identified liberals (91%) and Democrats (87%) and lowest among conservatives (52%) and Republicans (55%). Support is inversely correlated with age, reaching 79% among 18- to 34-year-olds. However, even among the oldest age group, nearly two-thirds (64%) are in favor,” Gallup reported. “There are no significant differences in support by gender, race or education. While most of the regional differences seen this year are also not statistically significant, the lower support for legalization in the East than in the West and Midwest is consistent with the recent trend.”

But another finding released by Gallup around that same time showed that, for the first time, “a majority of U.S. adults, 52%, say the U.S. has lost ground in coping with the illegal drug problem, while a record-low 24% say it has made progress.”

Those findings, per Gallup, “mark a sharp reversal from the prior reading in 2019.”

“At that time, more Americans were optimistic that progress was being made (41%) than believed the U.S. was losing ground (30%) in the effort. For most other recent readings, Americans were divided as to whether things were improving or getting worse,” Gallup said.

“The public was most optimistic about the nation’s coping with illegal drugs in 1999 and 2000, when an average of 47% believed the U.S. was making progress on the issue.”

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