Marijuana Legalization: Nearly 33 Million Americans Are High On Weed

A new poll released on Monday revealed a substantial increase in weed smoking among Americans. Only three years ago, 7 percent of the U.S. population used marijuana, but today that figure has increased to 13 percent. This could mean more Americans may push for marijuana legalization laws, both at the state and federal levels.

Based on the survey data, nearly 33 million Americans admit to smoking weed. At the same time, approximately 40 million smoke traditional tobacco cigarettes. Some are predicting the number of cannabis users will soon outpace tobacco smokers.

According to the Gallup poll, one in five U.S. adults younger than 30 smoke marijuana, more than twice the number of older Americans. Interestingly, the percentage of pot smokers who never go to church or attend a religious service is 14 percent, 7 percent go to church monthly, and 2 percent go every week.

Pot smoking becoming more acceptable to Americans in general.
Younger Americans find smoking pot more socially acceptable than older Americans. [Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images]

Twelve percent of men admitted to regular marijuana use, while only 7 percent of women did. Approximately 14 percent of users live in the West, 9 percent live in either an Eastern or Midwestern state, and 6 percent were Southerners.

While the number of regular marijuana smokers seems to have increased, so has the number of Americans willing to admit they have tried it at least once. In 2013, about 38 percent say they experimented with marijuana one time, but now that percentage has gone up to 43. Only 4 percent said they tried it when the question was asked by Gallup in 1969.

With more and more Americans considering pot smoking socially acceptable, the results of the Gallup poll probably indicate more people are willing to admit marijuana use. It is quite possible that many longtime weed smokers are now unafraid to mark "yes" on the survey.

It is also very likely the legalization of recreational weed in four states has created a large number of new pot smokers. These new laws have also helped remove the negative attitude of many Americans toward marijuana users, especially in western states.

"States' willingness to legalize marijuana could be a reason for the uptick in the percentage of Americans who say they smoke marijuana, regardless of whether it is legal in their particular state," wrote the pollsters.

In 2012, both Colorado and Washington made cannabis use legal. Two years later, Alaska and Oregon passed marijuana legalization laws, and several other states, including California, will be deciding the issue in November.

Marijuana legalization sweeping the nation.
While support for marijuana legalization increases, lawmakers try to decide how to regulate the drug. [Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

Marijuana legalization support is gaining strength nationwide as states bear most of the cost burden of enforcing cannabis prohibition laws. With hundreds of thousands of Americans being arrested for possession every year, states must pay the costs associated with prosecuting crimes related to marijuana. Some law enforcement authorities believe legalization would cut down on gang violence by eliminating the fights over turf where illegal marijuana is sold.

Also, by creating laws to legalize and regulate the drug, many foreign criminal cartels specializing in marijuana importing and distribution would lose the lucrative U.S. market. A report from the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness found as much as 30 percent of the revenue generated by many drug cartels comes from illegal marijuana sales in the states, money used later to fund violent trafficking operations in Latin America.

The support by Americans to legalize marijuana has increased substantially in the last four decades. Data obtained by Gallup found 12 percent supported legal cannabis in 1970. By 2000, 31 percent of Americans thought it was a good idea. Just 15 years later, 58 percent supported marijuana legalization laws. The Pew Research Center found two-thirds of millennials back the idea.

While the recent poll supports more acceptance and potential use of marijuana, there stands a possibility that legalization may lead to more traffic accidents and non-deadly overdoses. However, there is little evidence thus far to support either. As of yet, it is difficult to predict just how legal cannabis will affect U.S. society, either good or bad.

The results of the Gallup poll, based on 1,000 respondents, are a clear indication Americans have changed their attitude toward weed smoking. While many states struggle to decide how to deal with legalization, the federal government still considers it an illicit drug. It is very likely public opinion will continue to shape marijuana legalization laws at both the state and federal levels, especially in the very near future.

[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]