More Than Half of American Adults Have Tried Pot

Detail of cannabis buds and prescriptions pills over reflective surface - medical marijuana dispensary concept.
Could a component of marijuana keep cravings at bay for heroin users? (Image credit: Roxana Gonzalez/

Just over half of American adults have tried marijuana, and 14 percent use it regularly, a new survey finds.

Funded by Yahoo News and carried out by Marist Poll, the phone survey asked adults over age 18 about their personal use of marijuana and their opinions on the drug.

The numbers are similar to those reported by the polling agency Gallup, which has found that although only 4 percent of Americans said they had tried pot in 1969, the number rose to 44 percent by 2015. Acceptance of marijuana's legalization is increasing along with experimentation: A 2016 Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans think the drug should be legalized. Seven states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of pot for recreational (rather than medical) reasons. [25 Odd Facts About Marijuana]

Who uses marijuana?

Researchers at the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York state interviewed 1,122 adults between March 1 and March 7, weighting the responses to accurately reflect all Americans by age, gender, income, race and region.

They concluded that almost 129 million, or 52 percent, of Americans (plus or minus 2.9 percentage points), have tried marijuana at some point, and that 22 percent of Americans define themselves as users of marijuana. This includes 14 percent of all Americans who currently use the drug regularly, defined as use at least once a month.

Among those regular users, 51 percent (plus or minus 7.7 percentage points) are parents, and 27 percent are parents of children under age 18, the survey found.

The 22 percent of Americans who currently use marijuana are a slightly gender-skewed group: 55 percent male and 45 percent female. (All values are accurate to plus or minus 6.2 percentage points in this group of current users.) Just over half (52 percent) are millennials ages 18 to 24, and 54 percent earn less than $50,000 a year. Most (71 percent) are not religious, and 69 percent do not have a college degree. Only 14 percent consider themselves Republican, compared with 43 percent Democrats and 42 percent independents. The rest identified as "other."

Attitudes toward pot

Tracking with the growing number of states that allow medical marijuana use, 83 percent of Americans (plus or minus 2.9 percentage points) support the legalization of marijuana use for medical reasons, the survey found. For comparison, 49 percent supported the legalization of its use for recreational reasons. Having tried marijuana correlates with greater support for legalization: 70 percent of those who have ever tried it (plus or minus 4.1 percentage points) and 89 percent who currently use it (plus or minus 6.2 percentage points) support recreational cannabis legalization. [Healing Herb? 5 Conditions Marijuana Could Treat]

Americans are less worried about pot than about cigarettes, the survey suggested, with 24 percent ranking tobacco at the top of their worries for children. Marijuana tied with alcohol for second place, with 21 percent of people saying the drug was their greatest concern for children.

The survey also asked people's opinions on whether they'd view another person less favorably if they found out that person smoked pot. Thirty-six percent of Americans would lose respect for a doctor who smoked pot, the answers revealed, while 28 percent said they'd judge an athlete negatively for using marijuana. Sixty percent of religious Americans said they'd view a religious leader as less worthy of respect if that person used pot. Celebrities got a bit of a pass from the public: Only 22 percent of Americans said they'd see their favorite celebrity less favorably if that star used pot.

Less than half (45 percent) of parents of children under 18 said they would judge their child's teacher negatively if they found out the teacher used marijuana in his or her personal life. Meanwhile, 79 percent of Americans said they'd lose respect for a parent who used marijuana in front of his or her child.

Parents who use marijuana do keep their kids in the dark about their pot habit, according to the survey. Among parents who use pot and have underage children, 93 percent said they have never used it in front of their kids, though 54 percent said they have talked to their kids about their own marijuana use. Almost half (47 percent) of parents with adult children said they have used marijuana in front of their grown children or shared their stash with their kids.

Most people who use marijuana do so for fun, with 86 percent of users saying they'd used pot during a party or social event with friends, and 78 percent saying they'd gotten high prior to a social event. Sixty-eight percent said they'd used pot before sex. Slightly more than half (54 percent) had availed themselves of their stash before a family function. Twenty percent of users said they'd used marijuana before a funeral.

Original article on Live Science.

Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.