The rate of Americans who say they’ve tried marijuana has increased only slightly since the 1980s from 33 to 38 percent, even as the rate of support for marijuana legalization has doubled and medical marijuana has become legal in 20 states, according to a new Gallup poll. Among young adults ages 18 to 29, those who reported trying marijuana has taken a major dip in that period, from 56 percent in 1985 to 36 percent in 2013 (a drop of 36 percent):
One potential reason for the age shift of those who report trying marijuana may be that older users are trying marijuana as a medical treatment. A much smaller proportion — just 7 percent — say they currently use marijuana. The survey relies upon self-reporting, so it does not necessarily reflect actual rates of marijuana use. But as state laws have permitted medical marijuana use, and two recreational use laws are now partially in effect, users have been increasingly open about marijuana use. This latest poll supports the argument that legalizing and regulating a drug does not increase its use. Statistics on use in the Netherlands also bear out this hypothesis, as use rates are similar to those in the United States in spite of a longtime policy of not prosecuting users or “coffee shops” that sell the substance.