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Cannabis Use Outpaces Alcohol for Daily Consumers in the U.S. [Study]

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Daily Cannabis Use Outpaces Daily Drinking in the U.S.

Times are changing, that’s for sure. Where we used to have to hide our joints and bowls from anyone we weren’t 100% sure was 420 friendly, now we openly post pictures to Instagram of our cat lounging beside our pipes and pre-rolls without much concern. This culture shift has become apparent again as research published this week found that for the first time in recorded history daily cannabis consumption outpaces daily drinking among Americans in self-reported surveys.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health compared cannabis and alcohol use by Americans over the past 40-years, from 1979 through 2022, with daily cannabis use outpacing daily alcohol use in 2022 the last year the data covers.

Important Statistics on Cannabis Use Trends to Note

The study’s author and cannabis policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University Jonathan Caulkins, noted that while alcohol was still more widely consumed among Americans, rates of daily consumption were higher among cannabis consumers than those who drink.

Key Stats from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

These stats were pulled from the study for an article published by Yahoo News! To help put some of this into context, the surveys included a total of 1,641,041 participants over 27 different surveys during that 40 year period.

  • Roughly 17.7 million people reported consuming cannabis daily or near-daily in 2022
    • This is significantly up from 1992 (a few years prior to California’s historic medical marijuana laws passing) when this number was under 1 million people
  • An estimated 14.7 million people reported drinking daily or near-daily in 2022
    • This number is also significantly up from around 9 million in 1992
  • 42% of people who used cannabis within the past month also fell into the category of daily or near-daily consumers
    • 62 million Americans report consuming cannabis in the past year (though this is noted by a separate study released by the Department of Health and Human Services)
  • 11% of those who reported drinking alcohol reported daily or near-daily drinking
    • 177 million Americans reported drinking in the past year (also noted by a separate study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)

A Few Things We Think Are Worth Noting:

  • In 2022 the average drinker reported drinking 4-5 days in the past month compared to cannabis consumers who self-reported consuming cannabis 15-16 days in the past month.
  • High frequency drinking is becoming a less common norm, while regular or high-frequency cannabis consumption is increasing with time (and legislation changes).

Alcohol consumption numbers shrinking and cannabis consumption numbers rising suggests some may be replacing alcohol with a vice that has more potential health benefits than risks. This would make sense following the trend from a 2017 study finding Americans were rightly starting to view alcohol as more dangerous than cannabis.

What’s Impacting this Cultural Shift toward Cannabis?

There are a lot of things at play here that could be affecting this data that we need to take into consideration. Things like the cultural and legal status of cannabis over the years have clearly seen numbers rising – but is this because more people are smoking weed or because more people are willing to admit they smoke weed?

Legalization May Make More People Willing to Self-Report Consumption

One possible reason that we’re seeing these numbers rise so steadily is because legalization makes people more comfortable with self-reporting their cannabis use. This is especially true for older generations who are all too familiar with having to hide their stash at a moment's notice because they were pulled over on the way home from “their guys house” while picking up their bag for the week.

Compare that to younger generations – especially those in their early twenties who have hardly seen a world where at least medical cannabis dispensaries were commonplace and in many places cops write you a ticket for possession if they do anything at all.

It makes sense that younger generations which are entering young-adulthood are less concerned now than people have been in the past about disclosing (especially confidentially) their cannabis consumption habits.

MMJ Patients May Consume Daily to Control their Condition(s)

Not only is there less fear of repercussions and perceived stigma for answering honestly about cannabis use than there was in past decades, but medicinal consumption should be considered here as well. Where the early data this research looks at is pre-legalization, a lot of it is at least post-medical marijuana legalization for much of the U.S.

As of this writing there are 37 states where medical marijuana is legal, 24 of which also have recreational legalization laws on the books – oh, and don’t forget to count the District of Columbia (D.C.) in there as well!

While there’s not an official count since all medical programs are run independently by their respective states, a 2020 study found that there were roughly 3.6 million registered medical cannabis patients in the United States. Many of these patients need to medicate multiple times a day to manage symptoms. This could possibly account for a large portion of these reported numbers since whether they were in a legal state or a registered patient wasn’t considered in the data.

Cannabis Consumption is Shifting from CounterCulture to Being a Cultural Norm

I think it’s clear that the U.S. is ready for cannabis to shift from counterculture to cultural norm or “mainstream” as we’ve seen television featuring the legal cannabis industry, poll after poll after poll showing voters in favor of reform, and even U.S. congress leaders pushing for the change at a federal level.

This year the U.S. is taking bigger steps than ever towards these goals as the process of rescheduling cannabis is no longer just talk, putting us that much closer to everyone seeing cannabis as just as culturally normal and acceptable as alcohol, and that acknowledgement is a huge step in the right direction.