Who Are You? US Government Statistics on Adult Marijuana Users

[UPDATE: The portion of my post relating to race and ethnicity data was missing one of the pie charts.  The text has been changed to reflect the correct data from the missing chart.  My apologies for any confusion. — Russ Belville]
The US Government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive (SAMHDA) is a treasure trove of information from the National Surveys on Drug Use & Health 2001-2007. I’ve always been uncomfortable discussing most marijuana statistics from this and other reports because the data so often cover marijuana use from age 12 and older. NORML stands for the responsible adult use of marijuana, so I wanted to know the facts on age 18 and older (some may wish for numbers age 21 and older; I only picked 18+ because the first data column is age 18-25).
The essential caveat: these are the people who will tell these things to a stranger for a government survey.
First of all, how many adults in the United States have ever smoked weed? The Survey breaks down the data by age categories and gives the percentage of the sample (Unweighted N) that answered yes or no to the question. Then they extrapolate, based on US adult population demographics, how many people in the United States (Weighted N) would answer yes or no.

AGE GROUP WEIGHTED N PERCENT OF POP.
18-25 YEARS OLD 16,790,928 51.3%
26-34 YEARS OLD 17,579,601 49.8%
35-49 YEARS OLD 34,676,635 53.1%
50 OR OLDER 26,869,808 30.1%
TOTAL 95,916,972 40.4%

That’s 95 million folks who’ve smoked herb.  The percentage is how many within that age group have used – a majority of 18-25s and 35-49s and real close on the 26-34s.  Or look at it this way: If you see someone under age fifty, flip a coin. Heads, they’ve smoked pot, tails, they haven’t.
When you look at the population of adults who have ever used marijuana, we find that young people (18-34) and middle-aged people (35-50) are equally represented at 36% of the population.
More fun with government numbers and Excel 2007 after the break…

Well over two-thirds (68%) of all adults in America are classified as “white” by the SAMHDA database.  About one-fourth (26%) of all adults are “Hispanic” or “African-American” based on the SAMHDA data.  (These proportions are growing for quite quickly for Hispanics, remaining steady for African-Americans, and declining for whites.  Demographers predict that by 2050, white Americans will no longer be a majority, falling below 50% of the population for the first time in our country’s history.)

However, when you compare that pie chart to this one — the adults in America who have ever used marijuana, we find that white folks are consuming marijuana in larger proportions compared to their population.  Over three-fourths of all marijuana consuming adults are white (76%), while only two-fifths (20%) are Hispanics or African-American.  This is an interesting fact to note when compared to the proportions of white, black, and Latino people arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for marijuana.  (Hint: those brown pie slices get a whole lot bigger.)

When broken down by racial/ethnic groups, we find that Hispanics are actually less likely to have used cannabis than any other group but Asians (about 1 out of 4 Latinos have used marijuana and only 1 out of 6 Asians… no matter what Cheech & Chong and Harold & Kumar may have led you to believe.)

Concentrating only on the 22,003,805 estimated American adults who have used cannabis at least once in the past year yields some interesting figures as well. As expected, younger people are the most likely cannabis consumers. A full 28% of people aged 18-25 use cannabis annually, and over 11% are using cannabis more than 100 days per year, more than the 9% who use less than monthly. But by ages 26-34, all those figures drop by half or more (so much for the new Pot 2.0’s addictive powers.) By ages 35-49, even though chronic and occasional/rare use drops by half again, there are still one out of twelve middle-aged Americans using marijuana at least once per year.

36.9% of all annual adult marijuana smokers use marijuana more than 100 times per year, meaning there are an estimated 8,120,045 chronic tokers out there. Almost half of these users are aged 18-25.
So remember, dear marijuana smoker, you are not alone. 95,916,972 American adults have used marijuana. 22,003,805 American adults have used marijuana this year. 8,120,045 American adults have likely used marijuana today. If only 1% of people who smoked pot today donated a dollar to NORML, we’d beat our advertising fundraising goal four times over.

0 thoughts

  1. check out carl sagan’s accomplishments he was a super genuis and smoked alot of pot proof that pot smoke doesnt make you stupid

  2. i think the problem why you don’t get donations is because most ppl who smoke pot are norml everyday ppl. With jobs family etc. and don’t want to admit it in fear of getting in trouble. don’t want to b affliated with it they just smoke it, closet smokers if u will . I was the same way untill one day i was like this is bullshit we need to have our voice heard and made a stand for what is right. I tell my friends to join and there always like yeah whatever. I work constrution so i always write http://www.norml.org check it out. on the porto potty walls i hope all my hard work dosent go to waste DONATE! TELL A FREIND, WRITE ON A PORTTA POTTY WALL, DO WHAT YOU CAN TO SPREAD THE WORD

  3. Another opportunity squandered by special interest media!
    CBS, Face The Nation, 4-12-09
    Arturo Sarukhan, the Mexican Ambassador was asked by Bob Schieffer whether marijuana should be legalized to eliminate one item from the drug cartels’ goods. While neither endorsing nor denying legalization he did make the point that both using and producing Nations need to address this openly and based on fact. Ambassador Sarukhan made the point that addressing this based on fact would benefit both Nations. With tha t Mr. Schieffer went to the panel, consisting of Kathleen Parker, Rajiv Chandraseekaran and David Sanger and discussed the First Dog The War in Afghanistan, The economy and dismissed the panel to return after the all important Disney commercial with the final thought on religion, a very apt subject for Easter. Too bad that an otherwise well respected Journalist missed an opportunity to address Cannabis Reform. How Sad!
    http://www.cbsnews.com/
    bottom of page, click on “Contact us”
    be nice, it’s Easter

  4. Of the 8.1 million or more that smoked today what is being done to legalize it. Why cant the people that want this done get it done. In states where a popular vote was called to reform our pot laws how has that turned out? Has Mass. and California laws bein the exception or would other states pass similar laws if the states were given the chance to vote , by popular vote ,majority wins. Hell even put in the laws as long as it is closer than 10 points(60-40%) the laws about reform can be voted on every year. I dont call for anarchy I want to smoke at home after work and I dont mind paying a little in taxes(even alot) for this right.
    I’m going to donate money today.
    Here is what I want:
    1) Join with other like-minded sites and lets advertise. Put out commercials get everyone on the same page. If we cound speak as one our voices will be heard. If we could get 50.1% of the people to say they want reform this is a democracy we can make a change. The minority will not speak for the majority as long as we have elections.
    2) We need a stragedy. “Mission Statement”. What will be the selling points? How do we sell this product? Let them tax it, let them limit monthly use, similar to alchohol laws(open container, operate heavy machinery, not at work), let it be a yearly referendum.

  5. ANOTHER REASON WE FAIL:
    Turns out what I thought was my idea was used by the Libertarian Party to Defeat Bobb Barr and others. It worked, so of course they never did it again.
    READ IT AND WEEP
    http://cannabisnews.com/news/13/thread13831.shtml
    Greg Williams and Tennessee activist, Id be interested in your take on this, you two seem to be grown ups.

  6. Does any body know why the Libertarians 2002 Incumbent Killer strategy that was so effective was abandoned. In 2002 Bobb Barr was Buzzkill #1. Norml has never had a worse enemy in congress. To Ron Paul’s legislative staffer he was some sort of hero.
    READ ABOUT THE BARR AMENDMENT HERE
    http://www.levellers.org/dcbarr.htm
    READ WHO BRAD JANSEN IS HERE
    http://www.nolanchart.com/author860.html
    READ HIS DEFENSE OF THE WORST DRUG WARRIOR IN CONGRESS
    HERE
    http://libertyunbound.com/archive/2002_08/jansen-barr.html
    http://libertyunbound.com/article.php?id=23
    RON PAUL 2012

  7. There are 2 substances meant for recreational purposes:
    Marijuana and Alcohol.
    Somehow, tobacco stole the position of being considered the correct substance to smoke by society. But Marijuana is so much less harmful (even beneficial) than tobacco and produces such a more pleasant taste, smell and affect that it is obvious we humans are supposed to smoke Marijuana. In a proper world all drugs would be legal, but Marijuana would get the greatest use, followed by Alcohol. The less enlightened would continue to use tobacco, cocaine, heroin, and other substances.
    Untie the knot. Just because that it the way it has always been done not mean that the future has to be the same.
    Legalize Marijuana!

  8. Jason has a point. I have been reluctant to donate because I do not want to risk losing the easy money from my job where I am subject to background investigations on a periodic basis. If there is a way to send in money without risk it should be emphasized.

  9. WE ALL ARE A STATISTICS ON A GOVERNMENT CHART. ONLY IN AMERICA! LAND OF THE FREE-HOME OF THE BRAVE-AND ALWAYS UNDER SURVEILLANCE DAY BY DAY. NEW PRESIDENT-NEW PROPAGANDA MACHINE-BIG BROTHER AND THE ORWELLIAN MENTALITY IS HERE AND THEY WANT TO CONTROL OUR MINDS WITH BIG PHARM DRUGS. I WAS WATCHING TV THE OTHER DAY AND SCIENCE WANTS TO COME OUT WITH PILL THAT WILL ERASE BAD MEMORIES. BIG PHARM DRUGS FOR EVERYTHING. SMOKE A LITTLE MARIJUANA FOR RECREATIONAL OR MEDICINAL USE AND VHERE COMES THE INQUISITION FOR THE PROHITION WARRIORS.

  10. The government cares not what
    people want. We are nothing but
    a country run by a bunch of
    nazis waiting to lock people
    up in prison camps. We have our own
    concentration camps. They are called
    private prisons. LaND of the free, my
    ass.
    We, The great United
    states of america, has 5% of the population
    of this earth, but 25% of the worlds
    prisoners. Most of those are non violent
    drug offenders for stupid crimes like
    marijuana/cannabis. And here we
    complain about china for their
    “human rights” violations.
    Please i’m sure fuckin china is god
    damn disney world compared to the fuckin
    shit hole that we created in this
    country.
    They’d rather us all die from
    alcohol poisoning and smokin cigarettes laced
    with cyanide than have anything to do with
    the all mighty Herb. God didnt give us
    alcohol in the form of a distillery,
    or in the form of neatly rolled cigarettes
    laced with cyanide
    this plant, and it is very precious,
    and i think God will make sure that it
    stays safe being that it is safe.

  11. i think that if they legalized pot that the jail systems will have a majority of layoffs.it just kills me that someone can get caught with a bag and be sent to jail,have the shit beat out of them,and looked down on ,but if you commit a murder than your off the hook.obama should legalize pot then the crime rate would be down.ALL YOU CLOSET SMOKERS COME OUT ,BE PROUD THAT YOU SMOKE POT

  12. Did it occure to anyone lately that peace is promoted via marijuana. For Angry Nations at war, they don’t need more passive troops and lower recruiting of volunteers. But it’s great for the peace efforts!
    The early American Indians called it, “Smoking of the peace pipe.”
    If any of our readers could comment on what the current American Indian Reservation laws are, that would be great to see the differences between cultures.

  13. I would like to know the percentage of smokers, from those charts, that are successful. The biggest argument I hear is that Marijuana makes you lazy and unable to do real work. So what percentage of average smokers are bums and what percentage are productive members of society.

  14. Give Tennessee Activist another cigar. Right Again. Marijuana does in fact make you more passive. And that’s a big part of the problem. Most of the older Drug Warriors (60 +) still associate MJ with loosing in Vietnam. Certain soundbites make stronger impressions than a thousand facts. In many ways we have the Yippies of the 60’s to thank for today’s prohibition. Today’s blast from the past is from 60’s radical turned Wall Street sell-out Jerry Rubin.
    In 1968, marijuana became rampant in the army. In 1969 low morale, even civil disobedience, became rampant in the army.
    “Why does grass inspire the Viet Kong and kill the fighting spirit of the Amerikan GI? Any pot-smoker can understand it; Marijuana is a truth serum. The Viet Kong are defending their parents, children and homes – their deaths are noble and heroic. The Amerikans are fighting for nothing you can see, feel, touch or believe in. Their deaths are futile and wasted. ”Why die on Hamburger Hill?” asks the pot-smoking Amerikan soldier, as he points his gun at the head of the captain who ordered him to take a hill that only the Viet Kong want.”
    For Full context read entire Article here.
    http://thechroniclesblog.wordpress.com/

  15. Christopher, the SAMHDA data also break down usage by employment status:
    Full time employed: 51.3% used
    Part-time employed: 43.5% used
    Unemployed: 53.8% used
    Other/Not in Labor Force: 26.3% used
    Overall: 43.1% used
    So, I guess it’s time for another graph…
    By the way, to all who note the low number of >50 year olds… yeah, I agree, it’s low. Remember the essential caveat, and remember that >50 also includes >60, 70, 80… there is a point where you’ve reached before the Baby Boomers and you’ve got almost no one outside of jazz musicians, actors, and beat poets who were smoking pot.

  16. #68 Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator Says
    “So, I guess it’s time for another graph…”
    RE:
    Russ,
    – – I wonder what percentage of those recently UNemployed
    were UNable to KEEP their jobs DUE to SCARCITY of cannabis
    &/or refusal to pay top-dollar, primo-price$ for moldy,
    buggy, contaminated, perfumigated dirt-weed?!?
    If the truth be known… 😐

  17. I would like to see the percentage of hard drug use in the Military vs. use of cannabis contrasted with civilian population.
    While i served in the military from 1992-2000 about 20% of the barracks population on any given weekend was on some form of narcotic. Many used pills, there was alot of cocaine usage, LSD, ectasy, and alot of Meth as well. There was very little marijuana usage because of th time it stayed in your system.
    This would be interesting data to prove constant testing causes the opposite of the gateway theory.

  18. Genesis 1:29,30 Read it aloud to find out God’s stance on the subject. That is what I have been emailing to legislators,senators,congress,the president, and news channels.

  19. HI MY NAME IS JOE, I AM 73 YEARS OLD, I KNOW AT LEAST 50 PEOPLE LIKE MY SELF THAT HAS BEEN SMOKING FOR 50 YEARS OR BETTER. I DONT RECALL ANY OF THESE FOLKS EVER DOING ANYTHING OTHER THEN BEING PRODUCTIVE CITIZANS, RAISING THEIR CHILDREN,GOING TO WORK EVERY DAY,PAYING THEIR BILLS,GOING TO THEIS CHILDRENS SCHOOL FUNCTIONS, AND GOING TO CHURCH. JUST TAKING CARE OF THEIR EVERDAY LIVES. WE HAVE LIVED WITH THIS STIGMA OF BEING LAW BREAKERS FOR FAR TO LONG, IT IS TIME TO MAKE SOME CHANGES. THANK YOU

  20. with all the debt our country is in they cant afford not to legalize pot and it would cut down on the crime rate. Just by looking at those charts they should realize the potential in taxes. If the government would just tax pot like cigarettes wed be alot better off.

  21. Why fight us to get high? We have Mexican cartel problems right? Wouldn’t legalizing marijuana cut that cartels strength and revenue in half!!!! Should we give our money to illegal immigrants or the govt? I don’t know about the non-smokers who fight this with a motionless force against a “ton” of non-violent smokers. The only violence in marijuana comes from us having to go to a “dealer” to get our smoke instead of a vendor. Legalizing would actually make the smokers feel a lot more safe and with the prices of grass right now a govt grow house will be pulling in to much money to even think about. Smokers, let people know you smoke so they realize we are not Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times At Richmond High. Many users are genius and some greens are not changing that.

  22. Until someone gives proof positive of a major medical use,such as cancer blocking or curing,our government is not going to legalize even medical marijuana. The money that runs this country won’t allow it.
    It would cost the pharmaceutical industry BILLIONS,and the reduction in prison fodder would hurt the private prison industry. And the same rich bastards own stock in both.

  23. I was booted out of the USArmy for a piss test in 1985. Although I did my job well and was given promotions regularly, I guess it was more important to persecute me for something that didn’t rise to the level of a crime than to retain trained,skilled and dedicated soldiers. I fell on my own sword to mock thier asinine policies. Today they generally will not kick you out for weed for obvious reasons, but their principles seem to be out of whack, and the passing of time proves this, embodied by USAG’s latest directive.

  24. You also have to think that those statistics are from the people who admit to toking up, alot of people will just say when they do.

  25. YOU people are so dissapointing!!!! I can’t believe that you think marijuana is good for you! It causes cancer, and other awful diseases. Would you want your family to be hurt because of your mistake to use weed?? Please, think twice next time. LIVE ABOVE WEED, LIVE ABOVE THE INFLUENCE ^
    [Editor’s note: “Live above the influence?” That is so 1990s…..Whether an adult enjoys cannabis or needs it as a medicinal agent, there is no logical or compassionate reason to continue with a failed 73-year old policy.]

  26. Dear Hannah,
    You are soo dissapointing!!!!! I can’t believe that you think Oxygen is good for you!!! It is highly combustible and dangerious! Over doses of oxygen can be DEADLY. Do you really want your family to be raised in an environment where this deadly material is plentiful? Do you want your childeren to come to harm due to your bad judgements with the use of O2? LIVE ABOVE O2! LIVE ABOVE THE INFLUENCE??? (obviously satire)

  27. How can Marijuana be labled “bad”? I mean does the plant have a volition of its own? Can it act? Is it autonomous? I would hope not! If it is the case that it is not, in any of the afore stated cases, then one can not blame the substance and should not attempt to punish or demonize it. If the those questions asked are answered in the negative then we must conclude that it is the actions of people that who are in fact autonomous, who have their own volition, and who CAN be labled as “bad” that should be called into question. We all know (or I would hope) that man is not a perfect being and thus we must pick and choose which problems are worth our time. More and more statistics on the subject of Marijuana are coming to light and they seem to suggest that the plant is “relatively” harmless when used for recreational purposes and thus is not worth placing people who have lived otherwise productive, responcable, and healthy lives, in to our all ready crowded prisons. Following party lines such as LIVE ABOVE THE INFLUENCE are accepted forms of RHETORIC. If my point has not reached you yet, then i shall have to be more foreward. Those lines are the definition of PROPOGANDA! rooted not in fact or even an attempt at it; but play on your emotions! In conclusion Hannah THINK FOR YOUR SELF! I have faith in you lol

  28. One out of three young African American (ages 18 to 35) men are in prison or on some form of supervised release. There are more African American men in prison than in college. Thats a four times higher percentage of Black men in prison than South Africa at the height of apartheid.
    Let’s look at the statistics again: (2008 – illicit drug use by race) “Current illicit drug use among persons aged 12 or older varied by race/ethnicity in 2008, with the lowest rate among Asians (3.6 percent) (Figure 2.9). Rates were 14.7 percent for persons reporting two or more races, 10.1 percent for blacks, 9.5 percent for American Indians or Alaska Natives, 8.2 percent for whites, 7.3 percent of Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, and 6.2 percent for Hispanics.”
    That’s 8.2% of whites and 10.1% of blacks using illicit drugs. Now look at the incarceration statistics:
    (2007 – incarceration rate by race) “The custody incarceration rate for black males was 4,618 per 100,000.
    while the incarceration rate of white males was 773 per 100,000.
    This means that there are at least 5 times more blacks incarcerated for drug offenses than should be expected. This is clearly a gross injustice!
    http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/64
    Whatever the exact dynamics involved, these horrific racial disparities are a direct result of drug-prohibition and are quite clearly unacceptable. This moronothon has done nothing but breed generations of incarcerated and disenfranchised Afro Americans and any citizen not doing their utmost to help reverse this perverse injustice may duly hang their head in shame.

  29. What I think from these stasticis is that about 1/3 of the population will admit to smoking canabis, thats mostly folks who Have. I bet theres still 1/4-1/3 who DO smoke and are too paranoid to admit it because they think the survey is a cop. So by my bad math calculations that makes it about 2/3’s that have/do or might smoke canabis. The canabis consumer is EVERYWHERE America, And all we really want is to be TAXED! Granted we want a clause on that tax that states the revenues will only be used to fund education and health care for everyone, but smokers tend to lean towards funny stuff like charity and taking care of the children’s future unlike conservative christian types.

  30. “Christopher, the SAMHDA data also break down usage by employment status:
    Full time employed: 51.3% used
    Part-time employed: 43.5% used
    Unemployed: 53.8% used
    Other/Not in Labor Force: 26.3% used
    Overall: 43.1% used”
    Also, I wonder how many people of the ‘non-smoking’ employed population (part time and full) would smoke marijuana if they weren’t drug tested where they work.

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