New England Remains The Regional Leader In Pot Use — What The Northeast's Affinity With Cannabis Says About The Viability Of Prohibition

The federal government has once again released its state-by-state estimate of self-reported licit and illicit substance use. You can download the full report here.
Once again, the northeast leads the nation in self-reported marijuana use in practically every measurable category.
Among states reporting ‘marijuana use in the past year among persons aged 12 and older,’ Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont all rank in the top percentile. (Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon round out the list.) Among states reporting ‘marijuana use in the past year among youths age 12 to 17,’ Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont top the list (along with Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon).
The totals in the category ‘marijuana use in the past year among persons age 18 to 25‘ is even more New England-centric, with every northeast state (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) all included in the top percentile (along with Alaska, Colorado, New York, and Oregon). In the category, ‘marijuana use in the past month among persons age 26 or older‘ Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont top the list (along with Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon).
The findings are notable because they are consistent from previous years and provide plenty of fodder for combating numerous drug warrior myths and stereotypes (such as the notion that high rates of illicit drug use — yes, the New England states lead in this broader category too — are typically relegated to poorer, urban, more racially diverse areas).
They also call into question the notion that marijuana use among the general population is in any way influenced by the legal status of marijuana. State criminal penalties for cannabis vary widely across the New England states. For instance, Maine’s decriminalization law (possession of up to 2.5 ounces is a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine) is among the most liberal in the country. Conversely, New Hampshire (up to one year in jail) and Rhode Island (up to one year in jail and a six month driver’s license suspension) maintain relatively strict penalties. Yet regardless of state law, marijuana use remains similar throughout the region.
Likewise, nationally, Mississippi and Nebraska — which enjoy some of the most liberal marijuana laws (simple possession is a summons and a civil violation, respectively) — also rank among the lowest rates of self-reported cannabis use.
You can review the state-by-state maps for yourself here.
One final note, it should be noted that despite the prevalence of medical marijuana states in these rankings, the authors of the report acknowledge that there is no evidence that the implementation of medi-pot laws is increasing the use of cannabis or other illicit drugs. As noted in the study’s press release:

“Current illicit drug use dropped among adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 17 states between 2002-2003 and 2008-2009 — no increases in current illicit drug use occurred in any state in this age group over this time period.”

This is a point that NORML has made repeatedly, most recently in response to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske’s false claims. The Marijuana Policy Project also has a newly updated report thoroughly rebuking this claim here.

31 thoughts

  1. The report is bunk unless the raw data used to gather the information is released (which they won’t do for me). I can call people in California until I get the numbers I want then throw that information into their “equation” and put out whatever statistics I want. In the report there is no information on how much of the population was polled. In this case I find the information about as accurate as the latest presidential poll.. absolutely useless in getting anything near the truth or reality.
    [Paul Armentano responds: The data is compiled from SAMHSA’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. As stated in the report: “NSDUH is an ongoing survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States aged 12 years or older. Interview data from 137,436 persons were collected in 2008-2009 (see Table A.9 in Appendix A).”]

  2. This is suprising news to me. I would have thought that liberal states would have more cannabis users. Let’s just legalize cannabis and be done with incarcerating benign herb users. What a boost to the economy that would be.

  3. Living in Maine is great, everybody grows their own weed and you can just borrow some from your neighbor like sugar! That being said, children use has skyrocketed recently. Kids are smoking at age 12 and 13 now and its becoming a huge problem. To put it bluntly, the youth is becoming dumb. They are stunting their growth with it, but have no idea the effects of using marijuana before puberty. If we legalized and regulated it, it would be so much harder for children to get their hands on it and we could also EDUCATE the population on why waiting to use weed is a good thing.

  4. One should also note, since I live in this state, that New Hampshire may be very conservative, and founded on the principles of “respect thy neighbor”, “Live Free or Die”, but it’s a police state, when, especially compared to Vermont. Even Gov. Lynch emphasizes law enforcement in the “war on drugs”, with the misconception that coming down especially hard on drugs is the way to protect youth. On the other hand, recently the NH House of Representatives by a landslide decision, voted to legalize personal possession and use of cannabis… voted down by the senate, and promised a veto by the governor.
    My point is, NH is a state hostile on the one hand to legalizing cannabis, and spends a lot of tax-payer money on anti-drug warrior state, while also composed of an extremely well educated and knowledgeable percentage of the citizens who recognize cannabis prohibition is wrong, and not the NH way. RE: other substances like cocaine, meth, heroin, strongly opposed from my observations. But cannabis… if not for the mistaken and delusional notion that some hold that legalizing cannabis is a threat to youth, it’d be legal tomorrow. As I expect might actually happen.
    Why… because NH is fundamentally a wolf when protection and personal freedom are the issue. People here generally have a realistic expectation to “Live Free or Die”. It’s fear that stands in the way of progress. Fear our senate and governor are especially paranoid about.

  5. What a liar and a criminal. He deserves to rot in jail for his continued lies to the people and the refusal to hear from the LEAP on the FACTS behind marijuana instead of the LIES that everyone knows the government is trying to push on the young people. Once kids find out that the government is lying to them about marijuana they tend to think that everything is a lie and the continued hatred for the government gets worse and worse. If a group of 40,000 ex law enforcement people from the DEA to local police say legalization is what is best for this country then we should probably listen to them. They have more evidence and facts on marijuana then the government has which is none what so ever. ITS TIME FOR CHANGE and everyone knows it.

  6. Why is Massachusetts going for a medical marijuana initiative in 2012? – It seems foolish and a waste of time. If they have money to do a medical marijuana initiative they can simply put that money towards a legalization initiative.
    A legalization initiative would pass in Massachusetts, hands down. But now that Massachusetts is going to get a Medical that will decrease the number of votes that legalization would of got.

  7. As a born and raised NH resident who JUST recently transplanted to MA, I echo Bobkat’s remarks about the “live free or die, year right” state. I have had excellent and respectful run-ins with law enforcement in Maine and Mass involving marijuana which ended very reasonably. NH is another story. My brother was backcountry camping in NH (as in, NOT car camping, rather setting up a legal campsite in the middle of the woods over 1 mile in) during bike week and a Ranger busted him for weed. Unbelievable.

  8. as a norml member who helped pass decrim in CT let me tell you there are a lot of corporate pot heads to keep on the down low for there reputations sake, that’s just about it.
    at this point its more about apathy for drug threats that let us work, not a lot of support but not a lot of resistance. Ill take those odds any day

  9. “They also call into question the notion that marijuana use among the general population is in any way influenced by the legal status of marijuana. State criminal penalties for cannabis vary widely across the New England states …. Yet regardless of state law, marijuana use remains similar throughout the region.”
    It is also reasonable to assume that citizens in states with stricter penalties are less likely to admit they consume an illicit drug.
    I wonder if there is any research done on this, as this would further strengthen the correlation, or lack of, between prohibition and illicit drug consumption

  10. New England is home to one of the richest cannabis markets in the world. Funny thing is, if you are not from here, you would never suspect that straight-laced math teacher and her husband know the difference between Super Skunk and NYC Diesel, and can score a bag with one phone call.

  11. Thank you Paul for your comment, 137.5k people, seems like an extremely small portion of the population. This information does not help explain much about the survey and leaves many variables that can be skewed to show almost whatever the government would like to show.

  12. I don’t believe this rubbish . California or Humboldt County is and will always be #1 in the industry . Maybe the Government does not consider California has one of ” the States ” .Taken from, Humboldt was a million plants last year & oh yeah….practically everybody smokes weed there .
    The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, cut down almost 800 pot plants from a grow site off of State Route 299 on Monday.
    While the grow — spotted from a helicopter off the highway between Lord Ellis and Berry summits — was relatively small, Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Wayne Hanson said it’s only the beginning of a week’s worth of operations.
    ”CAMP’s in town, so more raids to come,” Hanson said.
    Hanson said the grow was found on private property Monday, but that no suspects were found. He said the plants were cut down and would be buried.
    Created in 1983, CAMP is a multi-agency law enforcement task force managed by the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. The task force is composed of local, state and federal agencies and is organized expressly to eradicate illegal marijuana cultivation and trafficking in the state, according to its website.
    The task force generally targets large-scale, outdoor growing operations.
    In a four-day period last summer, the Sheriff’s Office and CAMP reported seizing more than 60,000 marijuana plants in a series of raids throughout the county. One of the raids eradicated more than 20,000 plants from the Redwood Valley — the same general area as Monday’s bust

  13. All this really tells me is that New England people are more treuthful than all the rest…especially the ones in Kentucky! I had to laugh when I saw that! I think the only people that I know who have never smoked pot are my mom and my grandma…and I’m not too sure about my grandma. LOL!

  14. I will be smoking pot till the day I, die. wright now san’t afford the high prices of it.If the goverment was not so back wards it would be legal and they could put people to work and make money of it.

  15. This herb should be legalized , The economy demands and needs this
    1000’s of jobs and Billions of $$$ in tax revenue woyuld be generated . At@ $200 an ounce while illegal and $100 an ounce being legal
    The present consumers would have an extra $100 in their pockets every time they used an ounce and the state would recieve the $100 in revenues and taxes !!
    Further The religious use of “Every herb of the field ,it shall be as your meat “( gen:6) Cannot be denied
    Now that marijuna has been classified as a “medicinal herb ”
    The religious use should be allowed WITHOUT a Doctors slipp and should further allow the common citizen to Grow their own <OR PRIOVIDE A LEGAL SOURCE other than a Dispencery costing $60 an 1/8th($480 an ounce )
    How many TAX dollars are being wasted on a war that cannot be won ( besides the $1.5 billion a day in afghanistan ) Whenn this wasted war on mariijuana money ( and manpower ) Could be used for — oh lets say
    Supporting The E-verify system to Identify Illegal aliens (FELONS the minute they enter this country illegaly )and deporting them
    I can do time in jail in most states by having a usable amounty of weed
    But Illegals get SSI benifits and free schooling by breaking our federal laws . It's ime to change this parinoid control
    The State and Federal Governments Get BILLIONS of dollars a year in tax revenue from Tobacco, alcahol, beer and wine ALL legaly produced at a profit in this country !! Employing many 100,000 of thousands ,putting cash in the economy

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