Daily Marijuana Use Now Surpasses Alcohol Consumption


American attitudes have been changing about marijuana usage amid widespread legalizations, decriminalization, and the Biden administration recently making a move to reclassify the drug from a Schedule I to a Schedule III controlled substance, which would further ease restrictions. And now, a study has found that daily cannabis use in the United States has surpassed daily alcohol use.

In coming up with the findings, which were published this week in the scientific journal Addiction, Carnegie Mellon University drug policy researcher Jonathan Caulkins analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Between 1979 and 2022, over 1.6 million participants were asked questions about the frequency of their drug and alcohol use.

While overall alcohol use is still generally more prevalent, Caulkins found that 2022 was the first year that daily use of marijuana became more frequent. In total, 17.7 million respondents reported using marijuana daily or near daily—which makes up more than 40 percent of marijuana users—compared to just 14.7 million who consume alcohol daily or near daily.

In 1992, which was the lowest point for modern cannabis consumption, just 0.9 million Americans said that they used marijuana daily or near daily. The number of people who report using the drug in the past month has also spiked more than five times in the past 30 years, from 8 million to 42 million. 

And not only are Americans using more marijuana, but they’re using stronger marijuana. Amid ongoing legalization and commercialization, the labeled potency of cannabis flower sold in state-licensed dispensaries averages 20–25 percent THC, whereas the average potency of cannabis seized by authorities never exceeded five percent THC through the end of the 20th century.

That’s also not accounting for highly-concentrated products such as vape oils and dabs, which can often top out at over 60 percent THC.

Another interesting finding is that marijuana is increasingly becoming popular with older Americans. People aged 35 to 49 said that they consumed more cannabis than 26-34-year-olds, who in turn said that they use it more frequently than those aged 18 to 25. And on opposite ends of the spectrum, those 50 and older accounted for slightly more daily use than those 25 and younger.

That said, while daily usage is up, that doesn’t necessarily mean that regular marijuana use is necessarily safe. Though the drug is generally consumed about one-tenth as much as daily cigarette smokers, smoking marijuana creates about as many carcinogens, tars, and other lung-damaging chemicals as tobacco. Studies have also linked consistent cannabis use to increased heart disease and stroke, and poisonings have tripled since legalization became widespread.

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