Exactly Who Smokes Cannabis?

Who do you think of when picturing someone smoking pot? Did you drum up an image of a teen experimenting with drugs? A college student? Someone recovering from cancer? 

Cannabis smokers today come from all walks of life. Get ready to update your picture of what smoking weed looks like.

How Many Cannabis Users Are There?

As of 2020, about 250 million adults live in the US.  Of that amount, about 49 million people reported using cannabis within the past 12 months. 

What’s even more surprising? From 2002 to 2014, the 12-17-year-old group had a 10 percent decrease in monthly usage. During that same time, according to the survey, older adults in three age ranges saw an increase of 40%. That certainly turns the typical picture of a smoker on its head: no longer just teenagers hiding out in the schoolyard but adults everywhere in the world!

New Users

While teens may be slowing down their consumption of pot, the nation as a whole is not. In 2014, 2.5 million Americans over the age of 12 had used cannabis for the first time over the past year. This averages to 7,000 new marijuana users each day. 

But there is a rich trove of nationwide surveys that provide detailed information about weed in America– who has tried it, who uses it occasionally, and who are the most frequent users.

Cannabis is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States; 48.2 million people, or about 18% of Americans, used it at least once in 2019. Use in the past year, past month, and daily use was highest among those aged 21 and 22.

Teenage Weed Use Peaked In the 70s

Cannabis use for 18-year-olds peaked in the late 1970s when 51% surveyed said they had used at least once in the past year. Use bottomed out in the early 1990s, when the crack epidemic soured attitudes about illicit drug use.

Among 18-year-olds surveyed in 2017, 37% had used marijuana in the past year and 23% in the past month.

 What About Those College Kids?

Young adults have the highest rates of frequent marijuana use, but full-time college students smoke less than others in their age group, according to the Monitor the Future data.

More Women Than Men 

Men aged 18 to 25 are about a third more likely to use marijuana at least once a month compared to women, and men aged 26 and older are twice as likely as women in that age group.

Least Likely Smokers? Highschool Dropouts

Americans who have attended college but lack a bachelor’s degree have the highest usage rates when looking at American adults by educational attainment. Interestingly, high school dropouts are the least likely to have tried and/or use marijuana.

And they say you should stay in school to avoid weed! 

Those Without A Job

Unsurprisingly, there is a large demographic of cannabis consumers that are unemployed. The data shows that among Americans aged 26 and older based on their employment status when they were surveyed in 2016. Those who were unemployed but looking for work had the highest usage rates.

There’s no way to know for sure why those users without a job are the biggest demographic, after all, we’re only talking about the numbers, not the factors. Cannabis affects people in all different kinds of ways and doesn’t always make people lazy up like in the days of old.

The lowest rates were among those in the “other” category, which includes retirees, stay-at-home mothers, other caretakers, people with disabilities and students.

Top Usage in the Northwest 

The western region of the U.S. has the highest rate of adults who use cannabis at least once a month. Conversely, the southern side of the U.S. has the lowest rate!

Residents in large metro areas have slightly higher usage rates than people in less-populated communities. There have some research into how cannabis consumption has increased for city dwellers over the years even as cigarette use has declined. 

Alcohol Is Everybody’s First Choice

American adults are more than three times more likely to binge drink or use tobacco than use cannabis.

Binge drinking is defined as at least five consecutive drinks in one setting. Definitely, it’s easier to binge drink than to smoke the same amount. Not impossible, but it’s certainly a lot more work to consume enough cannabis to count for the same ratio. 


The world today is full of all types of consumers. Before jumping to the stereotypical image of a high school stoner or a patient in a medical wing, think back on this article.