Every Day, 7,000 Americans Try Weed for the First Time
People increasingly see the drug as safe and easy to obtain.
American adults are, increasingly, getting high all the time.
There’s been a 35 percent increase in the number of people using marijuana since 2002—from 6.2 percent of people over the age of 12 that year to 8.4 percent in 2014, according to a new analysis released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the number of people using marijuana daily or almost daily, though still a relatively small 2.5 percent of the population, has nearly doubled.
Two and a half million Americans aged 12 or older used marijuana for the first time in 2014, the most recent year the CDC studied. That’s an average of 7,000 new pot users every day—1,000 more than there were in 2002.
Meanwhile, slightly fewer 12- to 17-year-olds are smoking weed: There’s been a 10 percent decrease in past-month marijuana use among that group since 2002. This is despite the fact, the CDC notes, that teens are now less likely to perceive “great risk” from smoking marijuana. The biggest rise in marijuana use—a 65 percent jump—was seen among those older than 26.
The findings suggest that as marijuana laws are relaxing, people perceive the drug to be less harmful. Since 2002, the number of people who think of the drug as very risky has declined, and now, just a quarter of Americans think so. People are also more likely now to believe there would be no penalty for being caught with marijuana, and they’re less likely to fear they’d get jail time.
As more people view marijuana as a relatively safe drug, they’re more likely to try it. Since 2002, the CDC found, Americans have become more likely to buy weed and less likely to get it for free or share it. A Lancet Psychiatry study on adult marijuana use, also out this week, showed that Americans began to perceive less harm from marijuana use around 2007, at which point 12 states had legalized medical marijuana. That study also found no increase in “marijuana use disorders,” or feeling dependent on pot, despite a rise in use.
The CDC findings don’t necessarily imply that legalization has no effect on teen pot use, since many states didn’t legalize medical or recreational marijuana until 2014. Still, the fact that teens don’t seem to be smoking weed in greater numbers— even though the adults around them are—is positive news for the pro-legalization movement, since concerns over teen pot use is a common argument against relaxing pot laws.
It’s all further evidence that as states are treating marijuana like the new alcohol, everyday people are beginning to see it that way, too.