Where Is Pot the Most Popular?

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Just where is pot the most popular in the United States?  Recent data reported in High Times and other news sources called attention to the states with the highest levels of marijuana consumption. But what areas of the country, what sub-state regions, have the most marijuana users?

Federal surveys on drug use and health provide a good look at local marijuana use, as well as the popularity of cannabis at the state and national level. The data is gleaned from multiple years of the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), and each state is sub-divided into regions using different sets of criteria (often, but not consistently, groups of several counties.) Consequently, reviewing the data requires a detailed guide on how the sub-state regions are defined—the data, the guide and maps of the regions are all available from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The most recent data is from surveys conducted from 2010 to 2012.

The area of the country with the greatest prevalence of annual marijuana use is the Adams-Morgan area of Washington, D.C. (formerly designated at Ward One).  Here, over one-fourth of the residents (25.29 percent) report using marijuana on an annual basis; no wonder Washington, D.C. residents legalized marijuana. A close second, and no surprise here, is Multnomah County, Oregon (Portland), where annual use is reported by 23.65 percent of residents. San Francisco, California (AKA Region 5R) is third, at 22.85 percent of the population reporting annual marijuana use.

The rest of the top 10 starts with Ward 2 in D.C. (including the Dupont Circle area) at 22.3 percent; the Champlain Valley area of Vermont (21.63 percent); Northern California (think Humboldt, Mendocino and everywhere north of the Bay area) at 21.6 percent; Northern Alaska (Nome, Fairbanks, Denali and adjoining areas) at 20.86 percent; Washington and Providence in Rhode Island (20.43 percent and 19.6 percent respectively); and Boston, Massachusetts (19.47 percent).

North-Central and North-Eastern Nebraska has the lowest annual use of marijuana in the United States (5.71 percent) and the second lowest monthly use (3.03 percent). Hidalgo, Texas has the lowest monthly use (2.92 percent) and the second lowest annual use (6.05 percent). Utah is divided into six sub-state regions for these listings, and five of them (all but Salt Lake City) are in the top 10 for the lowest annual and lowest monthly marijuana use. (Marijuana use is not very popular in Salt Lake City either, but it is just a bit more prevalent there than in the rest of the state.)

Otherwise, the areas with the lowest levels of annual marijuana use also include the Adanta, Cumberland River and Life Skills area of Kentucky (6.2 percent); the Lincoln, Sweetwater and Uinta area of Wyoming (6.64 percent); and South-Central Nebraska (6.66 percent). Looking at monthly marijuana use, that same area of Wyoming; the Badlands and the West-Central area of North Dakota; and Southwest Louisiana make up the rest of the top 10 areas with the lowest prevalence of use.

Marijuana Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2010, 2011, and 2012 NSDUHs
Marijuana Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2010, 2011, and 2012 NSDUHs

When looking at the monthly use of marijuana, though, the areas with the highest cannabis use differ a bit from the top 10 for annual use.

The area of the country with the greatest level of monthly or regular marijuana use is Multnomah, Oregon (16.05 percent). After Portland, the top five includes Northern California (15.38 percent), the Champlain Valley in Vermont (14.85 percent), Washington County in Rhode Island (13.63 percent) and Detroit City, Michigan (13.59 percent).

So where does Colorado fall in all of this?

Well after San Francisco at #6 in monthly use (13.47 percent), Colorado Regions 2 & 7, otherwise known as the area with Denver and Boulder,  come in at 13.45 percent of the population using marijuana on a monthly basis. Those regions are followed by northern Alaska (12.48 percent); Providence, Rhode Island (12.77 percent); and Anchorage, Alaska (12.48 percent).

Some other areas of note, where monthly marijuana use is relatively high compared to the rest of the country, include most of Montana (excluding the eastern portion of the state), virtually all of Michigan, the entire northeast from New York to Maine (but not the northeastern edge of Maine), almost all of northern Florida, the north half of New Mexico and all of Alaska, Hawaii and the West Coast (except for about five counties in California—Santa Clara, Inyo, Kern, Kings and Tulare).

Marijuana legalization has fared well in states with high levels of marijuana use. This is not so much because of the voting power of marijuana users but because where marijuana use is popular, it is also more familiar and understood by the non-marijuana using population. Marijuana users need the support of non-marijuana users to legalize marijuana.

With this in mind, it is interesting to note that monthly marijuana use is relatively high in Pima County, Arizona (8.17 percent) and Clark County, Nevada (7.71 percent), and very high in the Washoe County-area of Nevada (9.67 percent). However, in the rest of Arizona and Nevada, monthly marijuana use is about the same as the national average.

Legalization measures on the ballots in these two states this fall will be important indicators for the prospects of expanded legalization throughout the rest of the United States—as they will reveal more about the appeal of legalization in areas where marijuana is less popular than in states that have already enacted legalization.

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