Share of Americans Who Admit Current Pot Use Nearly Doubles in Three Years

In the latest Gallup survey, 13 percent said they were current consumers, up from 7 percent in 2013.


Jacob Sullum

The share of American adults who admit to being pot smokers has nearly doubled in the last few years, from 7 percent in 2013 to 13 percent this year, according to Gallup poll numbers released today. The ongoing collapse of marijuana prohibition, which began with ballot initiatives approved in November 2012, probably has something to do with that, although it's not clear how much of the increase is due to rising cannabis consumption and how much to greater candor.

Gallup notes that "states' willingness to legalize marijuana could be a reason for the uptick in the percentage of Americans who say they smoke marijuana, regardless of whether it is legal in their particular state." As legal and social tolerance of marijuana increases, people may be more likely to use it, but they also may be more likely to admit using it. Notably, the share of Gallup respondents who say they have ever tried marijuana rose less dramatically (from 38 percent in 2013 to 43 percent in 2016) than the share who say they "smoke marijuana" currently, a touchier question.

The rate of current use in the 2016 Gallup poll is the same as the rate of past-year use in the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which includes teenagers as well as adults. The results from the 2015 NSDUH should be available next month, but so far the post-2012 increase in past-year use has been relatively small: less than one percentage point between 2013 and 2014.

Combining results from 2013, 2105, and 2016, Gallup found that the rate of current use was highest among 18-to-29-year-olds (19 percent) and lowest among those 65 or older (3 percent). Lifetime use was most common among respondents in between, about half of whom said they had tried marijuana. Use was also related to religiosity. Just 2 percent of respondents who go to church every week reported current marijuana use, compared to 14 percent of those who never or rarely attend religious services.

The overall percentage of adults who say they have tried marijuana has risen more than tenfold since the late 1960s, from 4 percent in 1969 to 43 percent last year. Meanwhile, support for legalizing marijuana rose from 12 percent in 1969 to 58 percent last year.