New England Remains The Regional Leader In Pot Use — What The Northeast’s Affinity With Cannabis Says About The Viability Of Prohibition

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 8, 2011

    The federal government has once again released its state-by-state estimate of self-reported licit and illicit substance use. You can download the full report here.

    Once again, the northeast leads the nation in self-reported marijuana use in practically every measurable category.

    Among states reporting ‘marijuana use in the past year among persons aged 12 and older,’ Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont all rank in the top percentile. (Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon round out the list.) Among states reporting ‘marijuana use in the past year among youths age 12 to 17,’ Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont top the list (along with Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon).

    The totals in the category ‘marijuana use in the past year among persons age 18 to 25‘ is even more New England-centric, with every northeast state (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) all included in the top percentile (along with Alaska, Colorado, New York, and Oregon). In the category, ‘marijuana use in the past month among persons age 26 or older‘ Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont top the list (along with Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon).

    The findings are notable because they are consistent from previous years and provide plenty of fodder for combating numerous drug warrior myths and stereotypes (such as the notion that high rates of illicit drug use — yes, the New England states lead in this broader category too — are typically relegated to poorer, urban, more racially diverse areas).

    They also call into question the notion that marijuana use among the general population is in any way influenced by the legal status of marijuana. State criminal penalties for cannabis vary widely across the New England states. For instance, Maine’s decriminalization law (possession of up to 2.5 ounces is a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine) is among the most liberal in the country. Conversely, New Hampshire (up to one year in jail) and Rhode Island (up to one year in jail and a six month driver’s license suspension) maintain relatively strict penalties. Yet regardless of state law, marijuana use remains similar throughout the region.

    Likewise, nationally, Mississippi and Nebraska — which enjoy some of the most liberal marijuana laws (simple possession is a summons and a civil violation, respectively) — also rank among the lowest rates of self-reported cannabis use.

    You can review the state-by-state maps for yourself here.

    One final note, it should be noted that despite the prevalence of medical marijuana states in these rankings, the authors of the report acknowledge that there is no evidence that the implementation of medi-pot laws is increasing the use of cannabis or other illicit drugs. As noted in the study’s press release:

    “Current illicit drug use dropped among adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 17 states between 2002-2003 and 2008-2009 — no increases in current illicit drug use occurred in any state in this age group over this time period.”

    This is a point that NORML has made repeatedly, most recently in response to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske’s false claims. The Marijuana Policy Project also has a newly updated report thoroughly rebuking this claim here.

    31 responses to “New England Remains The Regional Leader In Pot Use — What The Northeast’s Affinity With Cannabis Says About The Viability Of Prohibition”

    1. Jeremiah says:

      The report is bunk unless the raw data used to gather the information is released (which they won’t do for me). I can call people in California until I get the numbers I want then throw that information into their “equation” and put out whatever statistics I want. In the report there is no information on how much of the population was polled. In this case I find the information about as accurate as the latest presidential poll.. absolutely useless in getting anything near the truth or reality.

      [Paul Armentano responds: The data is compiled from SAMHSA’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. As stated in the report: “NSDUH is an ongoing survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States aged 12 years or older. Interview data from 137,436 persons were collected in 2008-2009 (see Table A.9 in Appendix A).”]

    2. Little Gypsy says:

      This is suprising news to me. I would have thought that liberal states would have more cannabis users. Let’s just legalize cannabis and be done with incarcerating benign herb users. What a boost to the economy that would be.

    3. isaac says:

      Living in Maine is great, everybody grows their own weed and you can just borrow some from your neighbor like sugar! That being said, children use has skyrocketed recently. Kids are smoking at age 12 and 13 now and its becoming a huge problem. To put it bluntly, the youth is becoming dumb. They are stunting their growth with it, but have no idea the effects of using marijuana before puberty. If we legalized and regulated it, it would be so much harder for children to get their hands on it and we could also EDUCATE the population on why waiting to use weed is a good thing.

    4. BobKat says:

      One should also note, since I live in this state, that New Hampshire may be very conservative, and founded on the principles of “respect thy neighbor”, “Live Free or Die”, but it’s a police state, when, especially compared to Vermont. Even Gov. Lynch emphasizes law enforcement in the “war on drugs”, with the misconception that coming down especially hard on drugs is the way to protect youth. On the other hand, recently the NH House of Representatives by a landslide decision, voted to legalize personal possession and use of cannabis… voted down by the senate, and promised a veto by the governor.

      My point is, NH is a state hostile on the one hand to legalizing cannabis, and spends a lot of tax-payer money on anti-drug warrior state, while also composed of an extremely well educated and knowledgeable percentage of the citizens who recognize cannabis prohibition is wrong, and not the NH way. RE: other substances like cocaine, meth, heroin, strongly opposed from my observations. But cannabis… if not for the mistaken and delusional notion that some hold that legalizing cannabis is a threat to youth, it’d be legal tomorrow. As I expect might actually happen.

      Why… because NH is fundamentally a wolf when protection and personal freedom are the issue. People here generally have a realistic expectation to “Live Free or Die”. It’s fear that stands in the way of progress. Fear our senate and governor are especially paranoid about.

    5. Daniel Gilmore says:

      What a liar and a criminal. He deserves to rot in jail for his continued lies to the people and the refusal to hear from the LEAP on the FACTS behind marijuana instead of the LIES that everyone knows the government is trying to push on the young people. Once kids find out that the government is lying to them about marijuana they tend to think that everything is a lie and the continued hatred for the government gets worse and worse. If a group of 40,000 ex law enforcement people from the DEA to local police say legalization is what is best for this country then we should probably listen to them. They have more evidence and facts on marijuana then the government has which is none what so ever. ITS TIME FOR CHANGE and everyone knows it.

    6. JustLegalizeIt says:

      Why is Massachusetts going for a medical marijuana initiative in 2012? – It seems foolish and a waste of time. If they have money to do a medical marijuana initiative they can simply put that money towards a legalization initiative.

      A legalization initiative would pass in Massachusetts, hands down. But now that Massachusetts is going to get a Medical that will decrease the number of votes that legalization would of got.

    7. Bri says:

      As a born and raised NH resident who JUST recently transplanted to MA, I echo Bobkat’s remarks about the “live free or die, year right” state. I have had excellent and respectful run-ins with law enforcement in Maine and Mass involving marijuana which ended very reasonably. NH is another story. My brother was backcountry camping in NH (as in, NOT car camping, rather setting up a legal campsite in the middle of the woods over 1 mile in) during bike week and a Ranger busted him for weed. Unbelievable.