Toker Nation: Pot Smoking on the Rise
When I’m watchin’ my TV and a man comes on and tells me
How white my shirts can be
But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke
The same cigarettes as me…
When Mick Jagger first sang those words in 1965, to the song (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, little did he know that one day, nearly half of the American population would indeed smoke the same cigarettes as him.
According to a new poll released August 17 by Gallup, nearly half of American adults said they’ve tried smoking cannabis. More than one in 10 reported that they actively smoke marijuana on a regular basis.
Gallup has been polling Americans about their marijuana consumption habits since 1969, when only 4% reported trying marijuana. For decades, the percentage of Americans who said they’ve actually tried pot hovered in the 30% range. As an increasing number of states legalize marijuana, weed is becoming more of a mainstream consumer habit.
Americans light up…
The Gallup poll found that 49% of respondents said “yes” when asked if they “ever happened to try marijuana.” See the following chart:
Growing up as a teenager in the early 1970s, I remember the intense stigma against marijuana. I was warned by parents, teachers, and law enforcement that cannabis was a “gateway drug” that inexorably led to hard drugs and ruin. (I’m reminded of comedian George Carlin’s quip: “We all know that beer leads to heroin.”)
When Gallup first started tracking legalization support numbers in 1969, only 12% of Americans supported the lifting of restrictions against pot. Richard Nixon, the man who launched the War on Drugs, occupied the White House.
In a separate Gallup poll released in November 2020, 68% of Americans said they favored legalizing marijuana.
We’re witnessing an astonishing reversal in public attitudes about pot that’s nothing short of a social revolution.
In Gallup’s 2021 poll about marijuana participation, it’s unclear whether more people are trying pot or whether they’re more comfortable admitting it. Regardless, the results show a dramatically changing America. We’re becoming a nation of tokers.
The new normal…
Gallup stated in its 2021 report: “nearly as many Americans today say they smoke marijuana as say they smoke cigarettes.”
To me, though, there’s a glaring flaw in Gallup’s methodology that probably understates marijuana use. The survey language specifically asks if people “smoke” marijuana, a narrow question that omits other delivery methods such as vaping and edibles. If edibles had been added to the survey, I’m confident the numbers would have been considerably higher.
In the Gallup poll, about half of Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers all said they’ve experimented with marijuana, at 51%, 49%, and 50% respectively. The Traditionalist category of people (those born before 1946) was, not surprisingly, considerably lower at 19%.
Millennials are most likely to say they currently and regularly smoke cannabis (20%), followed by Gen Xers (11%), Baby Boomers (9%) and Traditionalists (1%). Males are more likely to actively smoke marijuana (16%) compared to women (9%).
When it comes to political identifications, 22% of liberals, 15% of Democrats, 6% of conservatives and 7% of Republicans say they regularly use marijuana.
All of these cited numbers are based on aggregated 2015-2021 data.
“The percentage of Americans who have tried marijuana has steadily climbed in recent decades. Soon it should reach 50%, but it may not get much higher than that given the rates of experimentation have been steady around 50% in Gen Xers and among Baby Boomers. Half of Millennials have also tried marijuana, and with many in that group approaching middle age, that proportion seems unlikely to increase in future years.
“As such, Gen Z’s incidence of trying marijuana will likely determine the trajectory of the trendline. If Gen Z experimentation rates are similar to their predecessors’, the percentage may soon level off. It could, however, continue to grow if Gen Z and succeeding generations try marijuana at rates above 50%.”
The upshot: An increasing number of average citizens from diverse demographic groups are not only embracing marijuana legalization, they’re also using it. That’s good news for investors in the sector.
The younger consumers mentioned in the above survey have been notoriously resistant to investing and saving. However, growing numbers of them are grasping the potential for marijuana and they’re pouring money into marijuana-related stocks and exchange-traded funds, whereas before they largely ignored Wall Street.
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