With Liberalized Laws, Young Adult Marijuana Use Plummets

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director August 5, 2013

    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 Responses to “With Liberalized Laws, Young Adult Marijuana Use Plummets”

    1. andy says:

      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.

    2. Anonymous1 says:


      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”.

    3. Tyler says:

      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.]

    4. Blake says:

      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

    5. mexweed says:

      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.

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