Marijuana Use in the States

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Colorado leads the nation in the prevalence of monthly marijuana use by adults 18 and older, according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). When it comes to annual adult marijuana use, marijuana is the most popular in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.

In order to get accurate estimates of marijuana use at the state level, analysts at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), who conduct the NSDUH annually, must utilize two years of data. Consequently, the most recent data on state-level marijuana use is from 2013 and 2014. The key questions on the survey are whether the respondent used marijuana in the last year and in the last month. Marijuana use in the last month is often interpreted as an indication of recent or regular use.

In Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2012, the recent data shows an increase in annual marijuana use from 18.94 percent of adults in the 2012-2013 period to 20.74 percent in the 2013-2014 period. Monthly use for those 18 and older in Colorado increased from 12.86 percent to 15.17 percent.

In Washington, which also legalized marijuana in 2012, the recent data shows an increase in annual use by adults from 17.58 percent to 19.06 percent and an increase in monthly use from 12.53 percent to 13.06 percent.

Nationally, annual use by adults increased from 12.22 percent of adults to 12.87 percent and monthly use by adults increased from 7.43 percent to 8.04 percent.  Annual use in 2013-2014 was most widespread in the West, with 15.24 percent of adults using marijuana in the last year. This region also led the country in respect to monthly use, with 9.94 percent of adults reporting recent use.

After the West, marijuana use by adults was most prevalent in the Northeast, where annual use was 13.87 percent and monthly use was 8.67 percent.  Next comes the Midwest (annual 12.39 percent, monthly 7.6 percent), and marijuana use is the least popular in the South (annual 11.16 percent, monthly 6.79 percent).

The top 10 jurisdictions with the greatest prevalence of annual marijuana use are, in order: D.C., Colorado, Vermont, Alaska, Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The top 10 for monthly use are, in order: Colorado, Vermont, Washington, Rhode Island, Maine, D.C., Oregon, Alaska, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The six states with the lowest prevalence of annual use (ranging from 9.99 percent to 8.87 percent) are Alabama, Utah, Iowa, Texas, Mississippi and South Dakota. The nine states with the lowest monthly use (ranging from 5.92 percent to 4.75 percent) are Texas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Alabama, Utah, Tennessee, Iowa and South Dakota.

Efforts to put some form of legalization before voters in the 2016 election have been conducted in 12 states. Here are how these states rank in terms of monthly marijuana use in 2013-2014: Arizona (15th), Arkansas (32nd), California (14th), Florida (26th), Maine (5th), Massachusetts (9th), Michigan (11th), Missouri (20th), Montana (12th), Nevada (23rd), North Dakota (46th) and Oklahoma (40th).

So far, marijuana legalization initiatives have succeeded in states where recent marijuana use has been the most prevalent in the nation. Using 2013-2014 data, here is how the states legalizing all forms of marijuana use are ranked: Alaska (8th), Colorado (1st), Oregon (7th), Washington (3rd) and Washington, D.C. (6th).

It takes non-marijuana using voters to pass marijuana legalization ballot initiatives. However, the more marijuana users there are, the more likely it is that non-users have a realistic understanding of marijuana use and are less susceptible to pro-prohibition propaganda.

The current challenge for advocates of marijuana’s legalization is to win ballot measures in states that don’t lead the nation in the prevalence of marijuana use.The vanguard of marijuana legalization will continue to be in the West and Northeast, but the next challenge is to gain victories in the Midwest and the South.

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