Marijuana’s Popularity Among US Adults Continues to Grow. Here’s Why

Marijuana’s popularity among American adults is on the rise — and use of the recreational drug is expected to continue to increase, according to several surveys.

The increase in popularity, along with more permissive attitudes toward marijuana use, may be due in part to its changing legalization status in many parts of the country, experts say. 

Forty-five percent of adults in the U.S. have used marijuana at least once in their lives, according to a Gallup poll released in mid-July — the all-time highest percentage in the 48-year history of Gallup asking Americans this question. [25 Odd Facts About Marijuana]

Trying marijuana at least once as an adult isn’t the same as being a user of the drug, but the percentage of current smokers is on the rise as well: The same Gallup poll revealed that 12 percent of U.S. adults — 1 in 8 — said they use marijuana, up from 7 percent in 2013. 

Meanwhile, data from two large national surveys done by the federal government also finds increasing rates of marijuana use among adults. (Gallup does its poll by telephone interviews, while federal surveys conduct face-to-face interviews. An in-person interview could possibly influence results because marijuana is still illegal in most states and people may be hesitant to admit they use it.)

One of these large surveys, published in 2015 in JAMA Psychiatry, found that the prevalence of marijuana use in the United States more than doubled over a decade. After interviewing about 36,000 people, ages 18 and older, the researchers found that the percentage of adults who reported using marijuana in the past year jumped from 4.1 percent in 2001–2002 to 9.5 percent in 2012-2013.

The data showed that marijuana use was increasing in males and females in many age groups, although it was increasing a little faster in young adults, ages 18 to 29, and in males, said Deborah Hasin, one of the study authors and a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. The rates of use were also increasing among middle-age and older adults, she said.

But the trends in increasing use appear to be limited to adults: Marijuana use is not increasing among teenagers, Hasin said. Two major studies have shown that marijuana use has been relatively stable in adolescents over the last few years, she said.  

Popularity explained

The top four reasons people give for using marijuana are to relax, to relieve pain, to have fun and to help them be social,…

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