Cannabis has gone from being one of the most prohibited drugs to one of the most accepted within a couple of years. This is easy to see given the increasing rate at which legal recreational and medical marijuana markets are being opened in the country. Though cannabis is still illegal federally, different states have legalized its use within their borders. This is why the results of a poll carried out showed that 52.5 million Americans reported having used cannabis in 2021. Read on as we interpret what these statistics mean for the cannabis industry and support for cannabis legalization across the U.S.
The Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in its 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 20% of Americans aged 12 or older used cannabis in 2021. This percentage of the population is summed up to be 52.5 million Americans or one in every five people within the age bracket. This makes cannabis the most used substance that is classified as an illicit drug by the federal government. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug which is for drugs with no medicinal use and high dependence potential.
A closer look into the spread of the data across different age brackets shows how the use of cannabis is within the population. The highest population of cannabis users in the country is aged 18 to 25 with 35.4% of individuals within that age range or 11.8 million people using cannabis in 2021. The next age bracket that actively uses cannabis is aged 26 and older and 17.2% of such individuals or 37.9 people used cannabis in 2021. Finally, the last age bracket represented in the survey is 12 to 17 years and 10.5% of them or 2.7 million individuals used cannabis in 2021.
The interpretation of the demography of the cannabis users poses some interesting facts that help us to understand the spread of cannabis use in the country. Most cannabis users in 2021 were youths as most fall within the range of 18 and 40. This is the active percentage of the population who use cannabis recreationally for creativity, stimulation, sound sleep, and energetic euphoria. It is also worthy of note that 2.7 million underage users of cannabis were also covered within the scope of this survey. This shows that cannabis usage among underage persons is still on the rise and must be attended to as a matter of urgency.
When compared to other drugs like alcohol, a clear picture is painted of how much cannabis usage grew among Americans in 2021. The result for alcohol usage among Americans in 2021 stood at 133.1 million people aged 12 and above. This is a long way away from cannabis use within the country but it is significant to note that alcohol is not illegal federally. The highest rate of alcohol use was shown between persons aged 18 and 25 (29.2% or 9.8 million people), then 26 or older (22.94% or 49.3 million people), and finally 12 to 17 years old (3.8% or 995,000 people).
This distribution across the population for alcohol use is similar to that of marijuana use among the population and shows active usage among youths. According to Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), millions of young Americans faced mental health and substance use challenges during the second year of the pandemic. He then stated that the HHS is committed to ensuring that people with such challenges are connected to appropriate services.
Misused opioids though illegal are also one of the most commonly used drugs in the U.S. that were actively used in 2021. The survey showed that 3.3% of individuals aged 12 and older misused opioids such as heroin and other pain relievers in 2021. This percentage summed up to be 9.2 million people of which 8.7 million people were affected by prescription pain relievers and 1.1 million people used heroin. Over 574,000 people are also covered within this population as those that used heroin and misused prescription pain relievers in 2021.
The burgeoning sales of cannabis and the increase in the number of users across the country have increased the support for the legalization of cannabis among Americans. This was actively shown by a Gallup poll which showed that 68 percent of Americans support cannabis legalization in the country. This result was even more significant when it showed that support for cannabis reforms was well represented amongst Democrats (81%) and Republicans (51%).
The increase in the number of cannabis users in 2021 has also seen people of different subgroups known to not be too fond of cannabis get in on the action. Support for cannabis among conservatives was well-spread across different age groups as 59% of those aged 30 -49 and 49% of those aged 50 to 64 are in support of cannabis legalization in the country. These statistics are very significant when we consider that only 12% of Americans were in support of legalizing cannabis in 1969. The increase in the number of users has been complemented by an increase in the number of legal markets across different states in the country.
The message of the usefulness of cannabis is gradually spreading across different channels in the country and it won’t be stopping anytime soon. More people are getting in on the action and using cannabis for medicinal purposes such as anxiety, depression, relief from pain, and inflammation. There is also a wide population of cannabis enthusiasts who are making the best use of cannabis for recreational culinary purposes. There are new waves of cannabis-infused goods and edibles which is a reflection of the increase in the number of people that have come to love and accept cannabis in America.
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