Ending Prohibition When Only 13% of Adults Are Smoking?

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel August 11, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xThe latest Gallup Poll, based on polling conducted from July 13-17, 2016, reports that 13% of adults in the US are current marijuana smokers, and 43% have smoked marijuana at some point in their lives. According to Gallup, the numbers of adults acknowledging their personal use of marijuana has risen from 7% in 2013 to 11% in 2015; and to 13% in 2016.

    This may surprise some marijuana smokers, who tend to choose their friends (at least partially) based on their mutual enjoyment of marijuana, and to whom it may seem as if a majority of Americans are current smokers, but the great majority of Americans are not current marijuana users.

    The results show that age and religiosity are key determinants of marijuana use. Almost one in five adults (19%) under the age of 30 report currently using it — at least double the rate seen among each older age group.

    In addition, religiosity appears to be a key determinant for current marijuana usage, with only 2% of those who report regular church attendance and 7% of those who report frequent church attendance acknowledging current marijuana usage. Apparently marijuana smoking is still considered bad behavior, or “sinful,” among some religious communities.

     How Are We Winning Politically?

    Which raises the obvious question: how is the legalization of marijuana continuing to move forward politically in more and more states if only one out of 8 Americans are current users? The answer: you don’t have to be a marijuana smoker to oppose prohibition.

    Most of us support gay rights, although most of us are not gay or lesbian; and most of us support equality for all minorities, while by definition most of us are not minorities. Most Americans seek to treat others in a fair manner, despite our gender or racial differences, or our sexual preferences. And the same is true about marijuana smokers.

    A majority of the non-smokers have concluded that marijuana prohibition is a failed public policy that causes more harm to society than the use of marijuana itself. They favor an end to marijuana prohibition, although they are not “pro-pot.” In fact, a recent poll by The Third Way discovered that nearly two-thirds (64%) of the non-smokers who favor legalization continue to hold an unfavorable impression of recreational marijuana smokers. They do not believe we should be treated like criminals, but neither do they approve of our marijuana usage.

    Current Support Levels

     From a low of only 12% public support for legalization when NORML was founded in 1970, we have seen those support levels build gradually over four decades, as Americans became more familiar with marijuana and less fearful of the possible harm from responsible marijuana smoking. Gallup first found a majority of Americans supporting full legalization in 2013, and their most recent data (released in October, 2015) finds the current support level at 58%. Several other national polls find similar support levels, with one 2016 Associated Press poll finding support at 61%.

    All of which suggests that we have largely won the hearts and minds of most adult Americans, including a majority of those who do not smoke. And that is really all we need to continue forward politically. We don’t need to “turn-on” more Americans. Rather we need to continue to demonstrate that responsible marijuana smokers present no threat to non-smokers, or to society as a whole.

    So long as we do that, a clear majority of Americans are willing to respect our right to smoke marijuana, just as tens of millions of Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine when they relax at the end of the day. Thankfully a majority of Americans understand and support the concept of personal privacy.


    51 responses to “Ending Prohibition When Only 13% of Adults Are Smoking?”

    1. Julian says:

      We don’t have to consume marijuana to understand that we scapegoated our socioeconomic inequality on the most effective, safest most affordable herb on the planet. Ask a four year old with epilepsy. Ask a veteran who kicked an opiate-train to suicide by consuming marijuana. And if we don’t have nurse practitioners providing to elderly with alzheimer’s or vets with PTS, no poll or treatment may ever reach them.
      Even black members of Congress and the Nixon administration declared a healing plant “Public enemy #1” and for 46 years minorities have been disproportionately incarcerated by predatory beurocracies, vulture pharmaceuticals and a private for profit prison system. At least here, whether we’re white or black, stigmatized or self-identified, indigenous or immigrant, young or old, Republican or Democrat… Or whether we inhaled deeply when we saw that smoke comin our way… We can all agree that marijuana prohibition has been a terrible failure, and what Colorado has going is a model, balanced system for America and the whole world to emulate.

    2. MR.CC says:

      Did I just read an article that said president Obama uses medical marijuana cream to ease his arthritis.

      [Paul Armentano responds: No, it sounds like you are referring to California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher: http://www.cannabisradio.com/news/republican-us-congressman-admits-medical-marijuana-use/.%5D

    3. Hopefultiger says:

      I don’t use pot regularly although I “sneak a toke” a couple of times a year. I live in a state that has no medical or recreational pot provisions. If anyone asks me if I use pot, I absolutely lie. The risks of telling the truth (job, seizure of property, effect on family and kids, and opinions of my neighbors) are simply not worth it.

      I don’t have pain or any other condition that would qualify me for medical pot use, but pot has always been my drug of choice. If I buy a 12 pack of beer, it may last me two months, a bottle of liquor could last a year, and I throw away more wine than I drink.

      I simply don’t care for the buzz of alcohol (or tobacco for that matter), but I like to get high! Bottom line Brothers and Sisters, keep up the fight for those oppressed souls that are would-be users! I assure you that we are legion. I feel that our time is coming. I’d LOVE to be able to sit on my back deck, catch a buzz, and simply enjoy the evening.

    4. Harlan says:

      There’s an obvious explanation for this, it’s called “workplace drug testing”.

    5. Denny Strausser Jr says:

      It is clear that most people no longer favor prohibition as it does not work. And there’s an attitude which needs to change. I’ve offered a person a toke, and they acted like I was pushing it. I was no more trying to push it, as someone offering a beer. I just feel that it is courteous in a way, to offer if you have enough to share. Just like saying, “You want a beer?” “How would you like to toke with me?” I feel that it is pretty much the same thing. And a simple “NO.” will suffice not a story about how I am pushing it, just cause it is an illegal drug.

      I hope it won’t be long for PA (Pennsylvania.) as I always have to worry when acquiring it. It would be nice to walk into a respectful shop, who pay taxes, and buy legally.

      DEA still getting it wrong.

      They’ll be a day when they finally give up.
      Until then, I’ll continue to use it illegally as I have no other choice. Of course I could leave everyone I know and love behind and then move to Colorado or another state which has legalized. There’s many people who have already done that, as they are tired of these laws. Prohibition on marijuana (cannabis) has failed, and it is time for them to recognize this.

      Stay Blazed Everyone. 😀

    6. Dread says:

      *hits blunt*

      Make that 14%, man.

    7. Julian says:

      Here’s an interesting reaction perspective from Tony over st CBS news in NY;


      And then there are those in the mmj relieved the whole scheme wasnt handed over to Big Pharma:


      Americans are rapidly catching up to speed to the core of the marijuana tragedy, getting educated as to the way the FDA only approves compounds and ignores the less profitable medicinal quality of growing the entire herb for one’s own self medication. Clearly the regulate marijuana like alcohol campaign has been effective, but the DEA’s recent decision exposes the triad of beurocracy that Congress has left us. The most fascinating effect on our society as a result of increased marijuana consumption is how we are finally learning the civics of modern marijuana beurocracy at the same time the DEA, FDA and HHS reveal their deep ties to biopharmaceuticals at the expense of American health and security. Would we ever be this interested or participate in our government without kicking back, lighting up or vaporizing our favorite strain and watch as the climax of our American Marijuana Tragedy unfold until we get out and vote in November? Prohibition relies on our ignorance. Marijuana creates neurogenesis. Theres something growing in the heart of our nation’s conscience and we are making a choice to nourish ourselves with a safe and effective plant. America, we must not underestimate the power we have over our Congress by simply voting and choosing what we consume and from whom and where we consume it.

    8. Julian says:

      Hell yeah! Petitions are in for Denver pot clubs!


      Gotta watch out for SmartColorado trying to spread propaganda about driving safety “after hours,” by mixing the old alcohol-or-thc-in-the-driver debate (Clearly this lady doesnt think we remember the AAA and NHSA reports that determine THC is neither dangerous nor capable of being identified for when it is metabolized). You want dangerous “after hours?” Come to Austin, the live music and alcohol consumption capitol of the world and watch someone get shot or people get plowed into by a drunk driver on 6th street at 2am. Ya’ll go ahead and mill about the drunk bullets as the bars close; Ill be smoking trainwreck on the rooftop of the Cantina if I even go to 6th st anymore.

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        Denver is a party town; it’s just one of the many things I like about living here. But the problems which you describe about Austin are also problems in Denver, very similar issues.

        I can’t prove it, but I believe the Denver cannabis clubs may very well SAVE LIVES by expanding the legal options available for the average Denver citizen who wishes to socialize — a night on the town.

        Drinkers will drink — trust me! Until they decide not to. But there are so many people out there who might prefer the alternative venue, and consequently won’t be putting themselves in a social situation where the drinks just flow… then the impairment is inevitable, and then the fights, the accidents, the car crashes, the bullets, the dead and injured…

        …or, just hit the cannabis club and chill to some psybient DJ mixes, or maybe some Bob Marley! (What’s that? Johnny Cash?! Okay, suit yourself, but you get the idea!)

        • Julian says:

          After the Democratic state convention in San Antonio Austin legislators made emulating “states with successful marijuana policy” part of the state platform. Austin being an unusual Blue Democratic spot in the middle of Texas, You can bet Austin is watching Denver very closely.

    9. Miles says:

      There are probably a great many people that just won’t admit using cannabis since they have so many things to fear by doing so. One of my best friends has used it as long as I’ve known him; about 30 years. He absolutely will not admit it to anyone except for a special few like myself. He is a school teacher and greatly desires to retire as such.

      Isn’t it a shame that so many good people throughout our country, and the world, live in fear because of the incredibly stupid laws regarding this herb?

      Even politicians have stated that if they could vote in private regarding whether or not to change the cannabis laws they would do so. They always vote against change publicly because of their owners (big pharma, private prisons, certain law enforcement, etc…).

      Pretty pathetic state of the union if you ask me!

    10. Mark Mitcham says:

      One hundred percent of humans have skin in this game, and I’ll tell you why.

      My fellow commentor, Julian, has articulated an idea so profound that I’m going to cut-and-paste the one paragraph, below:

      (by Julian:)
      “Ok, I give in; marijuana deserves the title of panacea. It is safe treatment and nourishment for our cannabinoid deficiencies and I will go so far to say that our coevolution with cannabis and its intimate relationship with our endocannabinoid system deems any patent or prohibition of cannabis a threat to the health and security of all human beings on earth, as these unconstitutional patents and prohibitions are on ourselves.”

      Julian has hit on exactly why everybody has skin in the game, not just the 13% who smoke pot (or whatever the exact percentage may actually be.) It’s because we ALL have an endocannabinoid system. We now know that it’s an integral part of our biology, and essential for our health.

      Even in this “enlightened” time of legalization, if you say the word “panacea” you will receive skepticism. I understand Julian’s hesitance. But as he suggests, the danger is, “The Man” may not own you, but he owns the molecules on which you depend, as if Corporate America suddenly put a patent on oxygen, and started charging for the stuff, AND made it illegal for you to get it elsewhere. That’s Capitalism for you!

      • Julian says:

        Thanks for the accolades Mark. Patenting law as it pertains to biopharmaceuticals and bioengineering is on a slippery slope in this nation and its going to be up to all of us to get educated.
        The problem isn’t capitalism its capitalism unchecked. When we allow our Congressman to accept money from lobbyists from private prisons, Big Food and Big Pharma instead of our individual contributions we sell out Democracy. No other race is as observant of this principle than Washermsn Shultz and Tim Canova.
        Early Voting has begun in miami dade.

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