With Liberalized Laws, Young Adult Marijuana Use Plummets

According to polling data released this week by Gallup, 38% of Americans admit to having smoked marijuana in their lives. This rate remains relatively unchanged from Gallup’s previous surveys on this question. 34% responded in the affirmative when asked in 1999 and 33% in 1985.

What is significant about this data is that, while total use had risen very slightly, use among 18-29 year olds has fallen 20% since 1985. In 1985, 56% of 18-29 year olds admitted to having tried marijuana, which dropped to 46% in 1999 and is now down to 36%. This decrease has occurred while twenty states approved medical marijuana legislation, sixteen states have decriminalized possession, and two states have fully legalized marijuana. The threats of skyrocketing young adult use seem incredibly unfounded when it appears the current trajectory towards marijuana legalization has had the opposite effect.

Gallup found use rates among 50 to 64 year olds has gone from 9% in 1985 to 44% today. These findings seem to show that as those who came of age in the 1960’s and 70’s get older they are continuing or returning to their cannabis use.

You can view the full survey here.

A 2011 Gallup poll found that a record high of 50% of Americans support legalizing marijuana.

25 thoughts

  1. Makes sense…

    Kids who are looking to rebel or individualize themselves are not all that keen to do what responsible adults do.

  2. I’m one of the old guys and I’m in pain…..all the time. I don’t want to be a pill junkie as the doctors have tried to make me. I quit pain management after trying weed for the first time in 30 years because it makes the pain more tolerable than those FUCKING PILLS…..sorry.

  3. So…im glad about the report but this websites main article should be about how the Dea is taking info from the nsa and using it to bust people…..more specifically drig dealers and isers

    [Paul Armentano responds: We have publicized this story on our Facebook page.]

  4. I have a question. Would it be possible to sue the government over THC’s Schedule I status? Given the known medicinal properties and the availability of Marinol in the US and other, non-synthetic and more successful cannabis based drugs elsewhere, wouldn’t it be impossible for someone to defend the schedule I status?

    If THC was no longer in Schedule I, then cannabis can no longer be either.

    Perhaps more focus should be on rescheduling THC itself.

    [Paul Armentano responds: Rescheduling efforts have been unsuccessful, most notably a 16-years effort by NORML. The most recent rescheduling effort was rejected by the Courts in January: http://blog.norml.org/2013/01/22/federal-court-of-appeals-denies-petition-to-reschedule-marijuana/.%5D

  5. This speaks very loudly because even where the laws are not changing, the view of marijuana by the general public is becoming more relaxed and you would expect more accurate results because of that.

    I took my first puff at 22. It was always around me growing up and I remember my father telling me several times “if you are going to smoke anything, smoke weed because at least you get something from it.”

    It was not a forbidden fruit. I was a pain as a child. When my parents told me not to do something, I took it as a challenge and in no way saw it as a command or order. Maybe it was because of the unmedicated ADHD.

    If marijuana is so bad, why doesn’t the government put it in Schedule II, with methamphetamine, and let all the subsequent studies show how bad it is?

  6. What this data seems to show that it is fun to smoke it and fun to stop without the propaganda bullshit,the threat of jail, the loss of money and home, and your favorite family dog.

  7. and yet another support structure in their house of cards comes loose and soon those above and below will give way as well

  8. Unfortunately, this poll doesn’t address the 12-18 age group. Increased use by adolescents is a major prohibitionist talking point.

  9. I just turned 54, my legs are ruined from quarry work and injuries so I no longer work which sucks. I hate the damn pills,they are hard on my stomach and liver. I have to get loopy on them not to feel pain and get some sleep. A couple of puffs before bed really helps.

  10. This actually makes sense.

    In youth we are young, dumb, pushing boundaries, going out, in good physical condition and looking for something to amp us up. Which sounds way more like alcohol.

    When we mature we are generally more thought oriented, obeying civil guidelines, staying in, sore or achey, and looking for ways to just relax and chill out with our free time. This sounds more like pot.

    Further this by considering that in a black market scenario of supply kids get what they can, that they know they shouldn’t, from dealers. Which are often peers in their age range.

    Dealers only care wether you have money and aren’t going to nark.

    In a controlled and regulated system, the supply shifts out of the black markets hands into into lawfully businesses hands.

    A business cares that you have the money, and are of legal age*

    Just as with alcohol, kids can’t just walk into a store and get what they want, thereby reducing net consumption and associated crimes and penalties in the underage demographic.

    It’s time we faced facts. Stop wasting money trying to wrap your fists around something that will always wriggle free, and start generating useful revenue on a useful product in society. It’s that simple.

  11. In looking at the data, those least likely to be familiar with weed are Republicans and conservatives. Until now they’ve cultivated the anti-weed folks as a voting block, as well as the anti-women, anti-Latino, and even anti-science folks. I doubt anyone will be surprised when I say we won’t see any movement on reform until these people come out in favor of it.

    There’s an old Vulcan expression, “Only Nixon could go to China.”

  12. To Don Berry: The best way to answer the prohibitionists’ talking points re: 12 to 18 year old use is this – the same U.of Otago,Dunedin, New Zealand study that prohibitionists quote that shows an average 8 point drop in IQ and lowered cognitive function in adolescent-onset chronic long term users who started use at age 12 also showed absolutely no IQ drop or lowered cognitive function at all in chronic long term users who started use at age 18. Other researchers have debunked the study completely claiming that “confounders” not considered in the study could effectively negate the results entirely.
    Yet another recent study showed that anti drug programs in middle and high schools are not working and instead are having the unintended consequence of teens not using pot at all in favor of using the harder water soluble drugs like ecstasy, coke, smack, speed and prescription drugs because they leave the body quicker than pot so as to pass drug tests more easily. Unfortunately pot metabolites can be detected 30 days or more unlike the other drugs. Some college presidents are now advocating for lowering the drinking age on campus as some sort of deterrent to the problem of underage binge drinking! Is that not outrageous?!

  13. mr nice guy….that is a reasonable way to put cannabis and life in perspective.i often try to think of a way to tell those who dont understand about cannabis life how it is for us as adults who have grown and are responsible members of society.how easy it is to stay connected to all the things (family, work, projects, church life in many cases) in life while being able to relax and have some peace through cannabis.that is why i use it, with a.d.d. their are days i dont know which end is up! it has been a great benefit to me personally for these 32years. my job of 35 yrs has chosen hair testing and i miss its qualities and personal benefits! thank you all for your time.i wish freedom would hurry up and get here.my peace is on hold…….

  14. Everyone realizes this is terrible news for cannabis reform, right? Are people really so naive as to think that the point of prohibition is to REDUCE use? Laughable. Many states/countries have experimented with relaxed cannabis laws in the past and this is always the result. The prohibitionists have long known this. The whole point of the drug war is to ENCOURAGE use, especially of harder drugs. This is a huge setback for us in the pro-cannabis community. The prohibitionist forces are going to harden in the face of this information. Until we do what the government really wants and give each disadvantaged baby gets a hit of meth at birth to “get them on their way,” we are going to face a backlash of increasingly tight regulations in order to create as many drug-addicts as possible. The real question behind all of this is why the powerful in this world want so badly to have the underclasses (anyone under the top 0.01 of wealth holders) hooked on dangerous substances.

  15. “the propaganda bullshit,the threat of jail, the loss of money and home, and your favorite family dog.”–@Joel

    Jail is surely the main reason for the decrease since 1999 in those who weren’t afraid to even just try a toke– it reached 800,000 arrests at the end of the Bush years, etc., remember? Once the threat of arrest has died away, a big majority of the world population will be moderate cannabis users, killing off binge drinking and nicotine addiction forever. Better start finding new jobs for those poor scabs in the H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide $igarette industry, “Forgive >>> convert >>> redeploy”, “Bail Out Philip Morris”!

  16. When you take the illegal aspect away from cannabis you decrease experimentation among youths. Take a look at Holland cannabis use among teens is at an all time low compared with the USA. Regulation not prohibition is the key.

  17. A Gallup polls are conducted over land line phones and how many 18 – 29 year olds have those.
    B. Maybe they’re smart enough not to tell a stranger over the phone that they’re breaking a law that disqualifies them from student aid, military service, any hope of future employment.

  18. Anonymous has it right! And the one age-group most affected by the fear of the threat of PUNISHMENT– jail, humiliation, blacklisting, disemployment etc. is guesswhat— 18-29-ers! “Lose your last chance to marry the good looking rich girl– over pot?” Once you’re over 30, out of the spied-on and ratted-on age-group, you’re less afraid to try it!

    When the present-day fear fades away,

    a. Total population of users in all age groups will go up.

    b. Most users will be VAPE-LITERATE, i.e. use 25-mg-per-lightup singletoke utensils or vaporizers (pen vape, e-cig etc.) instead of 500-mg-per-lightup H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide “joints” and nicotinic “blunts”.

    c. Amount of cannabis used per user, maybe also total used nationwide, will go swiftly far down as soon as $igarette rolling paper is out of use. Five tokes a day is 1826 a year, slightly less than the siftings from two ounces. Pack-a-day addict consumes 2 oz. of $igarette tobacco in four days! Say the two ounces cost $500 black market price, compare that with $3000 a year for a pack-a-day $igarette habit in a high tax state, i.e. compared to the “legal” suicide it’s a 6x better deal.

    d. Even though the price will drop to under $10 a pound within a few years, few users will ever increase their personal intake much beyond the moderate 5 tokes indicated above. Sophisticated users know how to get just the right Encouragement Propaganda (Creative Paranoia) out of one or two tokes and do the rest oneself (True Synergy).

    e. Reports of cannabis “intoxication” and referrals to hospitals, largely caused by False Synergy with heat shock, carbon monoxide and combustion toxins, but attributed to the cannabis, will disappear along with $igarette papers.

    f. Children will be toke-literate and allowed to use sparingly, a 25-mg toke now and then just before an important active learning episode.

    g. There will be a drastic drop in number of children abusing alcohol or drugs or getting hooked on nicotine $igarettes.

    h. $igarete $ales will drop, a government safety net program will be needed to Bail Out Philip Morris, arrange retraining and reemployment for former $igarette-related workers, retrain tobacco farmers to use hemp to convert tobacco lands into forest, etc.

  19. Ummm, or instead of mandating 25mg tokes out of a vaporizer everyone could agree to just legalize it and do what you want with it. And as pro cannabis as I am kids and weed are a complete nonstarter. A responsible adult doesn’t hand a child a loaded gun or a joint until they are mature enough to use it

  20. This story and headline are such BS. Coming from a website that exhaustively promotes marijuana use, you mean to tell me that “liberal” laws are what cause fewer people to smoke pot? That is a lie. pure and simple. Marijuana use has not fallen among younger people and as a result of “liberal” laws use has gone up especially in liberal areas like California and Colorado. I’m not against smoking pot, I smoke it myself but stop masquerading as if you’re out to cut marijuana use among anyone. This coming from the same people who promote “medical” marijuana for children. HA!

    [Editor’s note: “Marijuana use has not fallen among younger people and as a result of “liberal” laws use has gone up especially in liberal areas like California and Colorado.”

    Sounds like an uninformed opinion at best…got any data to back up your speculation and insults? If not, NORML is going to defer to the data presented and you can interpretate the way you best see.]

  21. @Pacifragist

    The reason the drug laws are so stiff is because the wealthy do not want to work. Things must be done. So why would gov’t hire people and actually PAY them if they can instead jail people for drug crimes?

    It’s win-win for gov’t. Private prisons make money for their cells, and in turn pay income taxes, and the gov’t gets those income taxes from the private prisons, as well as getting free prisoner labor under the false pretense of “letting them out sooner”.

  22. This article seems to have overlooked a key point. While I’m sure medical mmj and legalization efforts may dampen the allure a marijuana I feel the real reason use is down among that group is a separate issue. The timeframe illustrated in this article coincides with the DARE program as well as other scare tactics that were implemented after Reagan declared war on marijuana. The misinformation from these groups is likely what has led to the declining number of 18-29 year old users. Has everyone forgotten the ads stating marijuana will fry your brain like an egg? Naive people believe propaganda. To me this points to a bigger issue. There are too many 18-29 year olds that were misinformed or under informed about marijuana.

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