Even as Americans’ support for legalizing marijuana has doubled, and more than 20 states have loosened marijuana restrictions in various ways, Gallup finds relatively little increase throughout the past three decades in the percentage of U.S. adults who say they have tried marijuana. Thirty-eight percent of Americans admit to having tried marijuana, compared with 34% in 1999 and 33% in 1985.
The latest results are from Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits poll, conducted July 10-14.
Before Americans’ self-reported experimentation with marijuana leveled off in the 1980s, it surged in the 1970s, rising from 4% in 1969 to 12% in 1973 and 24% in 1977.
Gallup’s trend by age reveals that widespread experimentation with marijuana first occurred among adults aged 18 to 29 between 1969 and 1973, rising from 8% to 35%. It then continued to mount, reaching 56% by 1977, and remained at that level in 1985. Since then, however, marijuana use among young adults has progressively declined. At the same time, as the bulge of young adults who tried marijuana in the 1970s ages and replaces older Americans who never tried it, the rate of all Americans who have ever tried the drug has increased slightly.
Although more than one-third of American adults have tried marijuana, a much smaller percentage admit to currently using it. Seven percent of U.S. adults in the July 10-14 survey — a separate half-sample from the one asked if they have ever tried it — say they smoke marijuana.
Middle-Aged the Most Experienced With Pot; Young Adults the Biggest Users
Americans’ use of marijuana differs greatly by gender, age, and political ideology. However, the demographic patterns for Americans’ past experimentation with marijuana and current use are not always the same.
In particular, adults between the ages of 30 and 64 are the most likely age group to say they have tried marijuana, while young adults aged 18 to 29 are the most likely to indicate they currently smoke it. Also, by 47% to 30%, men are more likely than women to say they have tried the drug. However, there is less of a gender difference in current reported usage, with 8% of men and 6% of women saying they smoke pot.
Liberals (13%) have one of the highest rates of self-reported current usage of marijuana, exceeding both moderates (8%) and conservatives (2%). And the pattern is the same for having ever tried it: More liberals (49%) have tried marijuana than moderates (40%) and conservatives (32%).
Experience with marijuana, both past and present, is similar among Democrats and independents, and is more prevalent among both of these groups than it is among Republicans.
There are relatively minor differences in marijuana use by race — between whites and nonwhites — and by education. There are no income-related differences among those who say they have tried marijuana, but lower-income Americans are the most likely to say they currently use it. This is consistent with the higher percentage of young adults who say they smoke it, given young adults report relatively lower household income figures.
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