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By Kyle Jaeger
Fully half of Americans have tried marijuana, according to a new Gallup poll—and more people now actively smoke cannabis than tobacco cigarettes. Additionally, a majority say they are not especially concerned about the effects of adults regularly using marijuana
The survey, published on Thursday, found that about one in six U.S. adults (17 percent) say that they currently smoke cannabis, while separate recent Gallup polling shows that just 11 percent say they smoke cigarettes.
Further, the marijuana question—which asked specifically about whether people “smoke” the substance—likely does not reflect overall current cannabis use given the range of non-smokable products that people consume such as edibles, tinctures and vapes. But when it comes to smoking, it’s become clear that Americans are increasingly opting for marijuana over cigarettes.
Looking at generational data, the trend appears likely to continue. Broken down by age, 29 percent of those 18-34 say they currently smoke marijuana. In contrast, a Gallup survey from last year showed that 12 percent of people 18-29 smoke cigarettes. (The age groupings used in the polls are slightly different but comparable).
Meanwhile, with nearly half of the states in the country now having legalized marijuana, the new poll shows lifetime use has hit a record high of 50 percent, up just two percentage points from 2022 but statistically higher than 2019, when 45 percent said that they’ve tried cannabis.
When Gallup first polled people about whether they’ve experimented with marijuana in 1969, just four percent of respondents said that they had. That “increased sharply in the first decade after the initial measure,” rising 20 percentage points by 1977, Gallup’s Justin McCarthy noted in the new analysis published on Thursday.
“It rose another nine points, to 33 percent, by 1985, but thereafter stalled at under 40 percent until 2015, when it ticked up to 44 percent,” he said. “It remained at about that level through 2019 but then rose to 49 percent in 2021, roughly where it is today.”
The finding that 17 percent of Americans say they currently smoke marijuana is also not a major increase compared to the 16 percent who said the same last year. But again, it’s markedly higher than when Gallup first asked the question in 2003, when just seven percent said they smoke cannabis.
Again, however, the language of the question is somewhat exclusionary. Most current marijuana consumers do say that they primarily smoke it, but a 2019 study published by the American Medical Association found other consumers report primarily using edibles (nine percent), vapes (nine percent) and concentrates (three percent) and drinks (0.4 percent).
For the most part, there aren’t significant differences in the demographics of adults who say they’ve tried cannabis, the new poll shows.
Lifetime consumption is consistent across age groups: 18-34 (49 percent), 35-54 (51 percent) and 55+ (47 percent). College graduates and non-graduates are both at 49 percent. Men are slightly more likely to have experimented with cannabis (54 percent) compared to women (44 percent).
The largest divide identified by Gallup was party affiliation, with Democrats the most likely to have tried marijuana (57 percent), followed by independents (52 percent) and Republicans (39 percent). Democrats are also nearly twice as likely (21 percent) to report active cannabis smoking compared to Republicans (12 percent).
Another recent analysis from the firm also discussed the partisan gap in support for cannabis legalization. A majority of Republicans and Democrats, as well as those who lean toward one party or the other, both support ending prohibition, but Democrats have more quickly embraced the issue over the past two decades.
The latest survey additionally asked respondents to rate their level of concern about the effects of cannabis use on adults and teens. For adults, a majority (55 percent) said that they were either “not at all concerned” or “not too concerned,” versus 45 percent who said they were either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned.”
That changes when people are asked about the effects of marijuana on young adults and teens, with 75 percent saying that they’re either very or somewhat concerned about it.
“As marijuana has become more available to Americans and legal in an increasing number of states, their reports of use and experimentation have increased too. Now, half of the country has tried it, while the other half say they never have,” Gallup concluded. “Experimentation with marijuana among most subgroups is on par with the national average, but the rate of current use varies more—and is highest among young adults.”
The new poll is based on telephone interviews conducted between July 3-27 with a random sample of 1,015 adults, and has a margin of error of ±4 percentage points.
Public support for marijuana legalization, meanwhile, has also continued to grow amid the state reform movement.
A series of three polls that were released earlier this year showed that most Americans are ready to end federal marijuana prohibition, regardless of party affiliation.