In 2014-2015, a full 32.2 percent of food service workers reported having used marijuana (or hashish) in the last 30 days. That's the most dramatic result of a new report from Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment, which collected survey data from more than 10,100 people on marijuana use, with the results broken out by age, sex, race and occupation. The department published its results today (April 13) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In second place after food service workers? "Arts, design, entertainment, sports and media" workers, with 27.5 percent of these workers reporting marijuana use in the past 30 days. "Production" workers come next, at 20.8 percent, followed by "life, physical and social science" workers at 20.6 percent; sales at 19.4 percent; and "installation, maintenance and repair" at 19.2 percent. [Marijuana Legalization in the U.S. (Map)]
Health care and technical workers were the least likely to report consuming weed of any listed group, at just 3.1 percent. "Protective service" workers came next, at 6.2 percent, followed by "education, training and library" at 6.3 percent and "community and social services" workers at 6.7 percent.
For reasons having to do with the structure of the survey, mining, oil and gas industry workers don't compare neatly to those other groups, but the researchers reported that 5.2 percent of workers in this industry reported using marijuana in the past 30 days. Meanwhile, 5.8 percent of utility industry workers (also listed separately and not neatly comparable) reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, the study said.
The rest of the listed professions clustered between 10.3 percent of workers in transportation/moving and 16.8 percent of workers in personal care and service.
So why all the variance? A great deal of it is likely related to the cultures of the different jobs. (Is anyone really surprised that folks in the arts are big into pot?) But drug-testing and safety policies also likely played a role, the researchers wrote.
While marijuana is legal to use in Colorado, you can still lose your mining or utility job if you fail a mandatory drug test. And movers and health care workers are frequently responsible for their own safety and that of others, which marijuana can compromise, the researchers noted.
Drug testing policies aren't perfect roadblocks to weed consumption though, as becomes clear when you break down responses by industry rather than occupation. (The difference is minor, but in this survey, it matters.) Workers in construction; manufacturing; and the agriculture, forestry and fishing/hunting industries use weed at rates of 19.7 percent, 163 percent and 14.4 percent, respectively, the researchers noted. That puts those workers all close to or above median consumption rates by industry, even though all three of those industries tend to routinely drug-test employees, according to the researchers.
Enough about work — what about race, sex and age?
Stepping away from the workplace for a moment, the survey also produced some interesting results by demographic categories.
White people in Colorado, notably, used weed more than any other group in the state, with 15.3 percent of white adults reporting use in the last 30 days.
Hispanic people were the next most likely to report consuming marijuana in the past 30 days, at a rate of 15.1 percent, followed by black people, at a rate of 14.5 percent. "Multiracial, non-Hispanic" people use weed at a rate of 12.7 percent, the study found. And "other, non-Hispanic" people use weed the least, at a rate of just 5.7 percent. It's not exactly clear who made up this group in the survey, but East Asians, South Asians, and Native Americans and other smaller non-Hispanic racial minorities could all conceivably be involved. (Unfortunately, standard demographic categories in survey data often don't map neatly onto America's racial and cultural realities.)
Men used more weed than women did, at rates of 17.2 percent versus 11.3 percent.
And 18- to 25-year-olds consumed more weed than any other age group, at a rate of 29.6 percent, even though the drug is still illegal for people under the age of 21. People ages 26 to 34, predictably, follow that group, at a rate of 18.6 percent. Folks over the age of 35 were all lumped together in the survey, consuming marijuana at a rate of just 11 percent.
Overall, 14.6 of the Coloradans surveyed reported using weed in the past 30 days.
Kaitlin Svabek, a Wisconsin-based information professional, helped Live Science sort through this data. Originally published on Live Science.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.