Daily Marijuana Use Surpasses Alcohol Consumption Among Americans, Study Finds

For the first time in three decades, more Americans report daily or near-daily use of marijuana than alcohol, according to a new study published in the journal Addiction. The analysis, conducted by Jonathan Caulkins, a drug policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, utilized data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, encompassing over 1.6 million participants across nearly 30 surveys from 1979 to 2022.

In 2022, approximately 17.7 million Americans reported using marijuana daily or nearly daily, surpassing the 14.7 million who reported consuming alcohol at similar frequencies. This marks a significant shift from 1992, when fewer than 1 million people used marijuana daily compared to 8.9 million daily alcohol drinkers.

Caulkins and Keith Humphries, a Stanford University professor, wrote in the Washington Monthly about the analysis, “Through the mid-1990s, only about one-in-six or one-in-eight of those users consumed the drug daily or near daily, similar to alcohol’s roughly one-in-ten. Now, more than 40 percent of marijuana users consume daily or near daily.” 

The study highlights a notable upward trend in marijuana use, coinciding with the liberalization of cannabis policies across the United States. “Trends in cannabis use have declined during periods of greater restriction and increased during periods of policy liberalization,” the analysis noted.

While alcohol consumption remains more widespread overall, high-frequency drinking is less common than frequent marijuana use. In 2022, the median drinker reported consuming alcohol on four to five days in the past month, whereas marijuana users reported using the drug on 15 to 16 days in the same period.

Furthermore, the study also found that marijuana use patterns are increasingly resembling cigarette consumption patterns. However, marijuana use has not yet reached the prevalence of cigarette smoking, with about 58% of past-month cigarette smokers (over 24 million people) smoking daily, according to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Interestingly, the analysis revealed that marijuana is no longer predominantly used by younger people. In 2022, individuals aged 35 and older accounted for “slightly” more days of use than those under 35.

The rise in marijuana use comes amid significant federal policy shifts. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice proposed reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug. Schedule I drugs, such as heroin, are considered highly dangerous and addictive, with no accepted medical use. Schedule III drugs, including Tylenol with codeine and anabolic steroids, have a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.

Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational and medical marijuana, and another 14 states have legalized it for medical use only.

Reclassifying marijuana could facilitate more research and medical applications, potentially lead to lighter criminal penalties, and boost investments in the cannabis sector.

Understanding the drivers behind this trend and its impact on society will be crucial as states continue to navigate the evolving landscape of cannabis legalization and regulation. 

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