Survey reveals how many Americans have tried marijuana — and the results are stunning

Survey reveals how many Americans have tried marijuana — and the results are stunning
According to a new survey by Gallup, more than 40 percent of Americans have tried using marijuana at some point in their lives. (2002 file photo/Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

According to a new survey by Gallup, more than 40 percent of Americans have tried using marijuana at some point in their lives, the highest percentage ever recorded by Gallup and a remarkable increase from when Gallup first asked respondents about marijuana, in 1969.

Gallup’s survey, conducted July 5-9, asked 1,021 adults 18 years or older in all 50 states, “Keeping in mind that all of your answers to this survey are confidential, have you, yourself, ever happened to try marijuana?”

Forty-five percent of respondents admitted they have used marijuana, up from just 38 percent in 2013 and an incredible 4 percent in 1969, when Gallup first asked the question.

A large chunk of the increase from 1969 to today is likely attributed to a change in how the question was initially asked. From 1969 to 1985, Gallup asked, “Have you, yourself, ever happened to try marijuana,” leaving out the promise to keep the response completely confidential that now appears in its question.

However, from the mid-1980s to 2011, little changed in the proportion of the population who had admitted to using marijuana, with the number sitting relatively steady, at about 34-37 percent. Since 2011, the number has surged, coinciding with the amount of states that have chosen to legalize marijuana. Twenty-nine states now allow medical marijuana, and eight states have legalized the recreational use of the drug.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Gallup’s survey is that it shows almost no difference between people of different incomes and that younger people are actually less likely to have used marijuana than some older generations. Fifty-one percent of people aged 30-49 and 49 percent of people aged 50-64 admitted to using marijuana, but only 38 percent of Americans 18-29 said they had tried the drug. Seniors, aged 65 and above, were the least likely to have used marijuana, with only 23 percent saying they have.

Although the percentage of the population acknowledging having tried marijuana has increased substantially over the past 50 years, according to Gallup’s findings, the percentage of people saying they still smoke marijuana remains relatively low. Gallup found just 12 percent of respondents said they are now using marijuana, down 1 percentage point from 2016 and up 5 percentage points from 2013.

In October 2016, Gallup found 60 percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, more than double the percentage recorded in the mid-1990s.