How Many Americans Have Tried Pot?

By Paul Gaita 07/24/17

A new poll shows that marijuana use is America is trending high, especially for men. 

person lighting a marijuana joint.

According to a new Gallup poll, nearly half of Americans say they've tried marijuana at least once in their lives, which marks the highest percentage in the history of the annual poll since its launch in 1969.

The new numbers show a 2% increase over the 2016 poll, which further underscores a growing trend towards not only social acceptance, but also increased support for legalization efforts. Upward trends were also noted in regard to the number of Americans who currently use pot, with 12% of respondents, or 1 in 8 Americans, answering affirmatively about their regular use.

While lower than the percentage of Americans who have tried the drug, the 2017 statistics for current users is twice as high as the numbers reported by Gallup when it first asked the question in 2013.

From a demographic standpoint, the poll results showed that more men responded affirmatively to having tried marijuana (48%) and current use (13%) than women (35% and 7%, respectively). Millennials—respondents between the ages of 18 and 29—made up the age bracket with the highest percentage of respondents who stated that they had tried marijuana (38%) and were also currently using it (18%). Those from the Baby Boom and "Gen X" groups reported higher rates of one-time use (49% and 51%, respectively), but far lower rates of current use (8% and 10%, respectively).

Income-wise, more individuals earning $30,000 or less per year had used marijuana at some point (42%) and were also currently using it (13%). Those making $75,000 per year or more posted a higher rate of one-time use (44%), but the lowest rate of any tax bracket (9%). From these numbers, the Gallup organization drew the conclusion that more older Americans had tried pot, but fewer used it regularly than those below the age of 30.

The organization also noted that as the number of states that allow medicinal or recreational marijuana use continues to rise, the percentage of regular use may also increase. It also took a step toward editorializing that while Attorney General Jeff Sessions pushes the U.S. back to War on Drugs-era policies towards low-level, non-violent drug crimes, his efforts are unlikely to reduce rates of use or the amount of income generated from the pot industry.

The results of the Gallup poll were based on telephone interviews conducted between July 5-9, with a random sample of more than 1,000 adults aged 18 and older living in the United States. The two questions were based on half samples of approximately 500 adults each. 

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.