Study: 17+ Million Now Use Cannabis Almost Every Day

Whether you call it cannabis, pot, weed, or something else entirely, marijuana is now considered mainstream in American culture. That could be good or bad depending on your perspective. I am guessing a lot of people think it’s good, based on a study suggesting that an estimated 17+ million Americans use marijuana either daily or near-daily (DND).

The study should be a wakeup call to anyone concerned that marijuana consumption will ultimately lead to the same problems we have with alcohol. We have worked hard in this country to reduce alcohol harm while at the same time promoting marijuana. It doesn’t make sense, and it might come back to bite us.

More About the Study

The study in question was led by Professor Jonathan Caulkins out of Carnegie Mellon University. Caulkins looked at surveyed data covering 30 years from 1992 to 2022. Millions of responses were considered in his data. Here is what he found:

  • There were an estimated 900k DND marijuana users in 1992.
  • The number had risen to 17.7 million by 2022.
  • The 30-year increase comes in at 1,867%.

Caulkins also compared DND marijuana consumption with DND alcohol use. In 1992, there were an estimated 8.9 million DND alcohol users. The number stood at 14.7 million in 2022. But for the first time ever, DND marijuana consumption surpassed its alcohol counterpart in the last year of Caulkins’ study.

For the record, a person is considered a DND user if they consume on at least 21 days per month. It is also worth noting that the study relied on self-reporting. This suggests that the actual numbers could be higher than what the study reports.

The Medical Cannabis Question

At first glance, it’s possible to look at the Carnegie Mellon University study and attribute all of the increase in DND marijuana use to the recreational market. We are zeroing in on two-dozen states that have recreational marijuana programs. But more than three-dozen allow medical cannabis. Could the latter be responsible for a substantial portion of the jump?

To figure that out, someone would have to look at the size of both the recreational and medical markets in the various states. They would have to analyze sales numbers from both markets. Then the data would have to be compared against the general population in all the studied states.

Utah is among the states with medical-only programs. According to the operators of the Beehive Farmacy in Brigham City, lawmakers appear committed to making sure it stays that way. So assuming that most of the Utah respondents whose data was considered in the Caulkins study were state-legal medical cannabis users, their responses would skew toward medical cannabis making up a large percentage of the 30-year increase.

We could look at California, Oregon, New York, or any number of other states to examine the opposite effect. These are states with both medical and recreational programs. Is it possible that states with both programs see lower medical cannabis participation because recreational marijuana is so much easier to come by?

The Numbers Are Important

As someone who has been researching and writing about medical cannabis for years, the numbers from the Caulkins study are alarming to me. They do not tell us much except for the fact that DND marijuana consumption has skyrocketed. Now we need to know why.

If the majority of the increases can be attributed to legitimate medical consumption, the potential problems are less serious. But if most of the increase is the result of recreational consumption, this country is on an extremely dangerous path.