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Middle-Aged Americans Using Marijuana More Than Teens, Data Shows

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that marijuana use among adults over the past 12 years has grown significantly, while use among teens has decreased.

Middle-aged Americans are now consuming more marijuana than teenagers, according to a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Based on federal data collected over 12 years, 7.4 percent of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 reportedly smoked marijuana regularly in 2014, compared to 8 percent of 35 to 44 year olds. This is the first time that use among adults surpassed that of teens.

While the argument from opponents to cannabis legalization focuses on the potential impact on teenage use, the findings in the CDC report suggest that legalization doesn’t cause more young people to consume cannabis. The prevalence of past year marijuana use in teens between the ages of 12 and 17 decreased by 17 percent from 2002 to 2014. Several studies conducted earlier this year came to similar conclusions. Legalization has been found to not increase teen cannabis use nor make it easier for teens to access marijuana. Additionally, marijuana laws have been found to not have an impact on teens’ attitudes toward marijuana or their risk of developing drug problems.

Overall, the data shows that marijuana use among young people is down, while use by adults is up considerably. Regular use among American adults aged 45 to 54 has jumped up 50 percent from 2002. Regular use among adults aged 55 to 64 was found to be up 455 percent since 2002, and among seniors, aged 65 and above, regular marijuana use is up 333 percent since 2002.

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“During the last 13 years, marijuana use (i.e., past-month marijuana use) has steadily increased in the United States, particularly among people aged 26 years or older,” report author and epidemiologist Alejandro Azofeifa told The Washington Post. “Older groups had a significant increase of marijuana use in the past month.”

Azofeifa and his team of researchers believe the significant boom in regular cannabis use by adults is related to the growing prevalence of medical marijuana. In 2002, just eight states had legalized medical marijuana. Today, 25 states and Washington D.C. have passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislation and four more states will be voting on medicinal cannabis initiatives this November. More than 86 percent of Americans now live in states that allow some degree of legal cannabis use. Adults are much more comfortable turning to cannabis to help ease their painspasms and sleep problems. Research has shown that prescriptions, particularly for painkillers, and associated medical insurance costs are significantly down in states with medical marijuana laws.

The CDC report also found that the prevalence of perceived great risk from consuming marijuana decreased in all age groups. Similar conclusions were found in a recent study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, which found a reduced concern for health risks with regular cannabis use among adults. Today more Americans than ever are in support of legalizing both adult use and medical marijuana.

The overall increase in cannabis use by adults is reflected in the booming nationwide marijuana market. A recent industry publication estimates that legal retail sales of medical and adult use cannabis in the U.S. will reach $14 billion to $17 billion this year, and projects that the market could balloon to $44 billion by 2020. The results of this November’s elections will inevitably make a significant impact on cannabis use and projected sales.

Learn more about all the medical benefits of cannabis by reading our Overview of Medical Marijuana Research page and stay up to date with the growing cannabis industry by following our newsfeed.

Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.

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