Marijuana Use Statistics Around the World (2019)

Medically Reviewed

It’s no secret that marijuana has become more socially accepted in our society. While alcohol remains one of the most widely used (legal) drugs in the world, marijuana use has grown exponentially. In the United States, marijuana has long been the most commonly used illicit drug. 

However, many states have passed legislation to legalize or decriminalize marijuana use. In 2020, every proposed loosening of marijuana prohibition was passed. As marijuana use increases around the world, it may have some consequences on public health around the world. Teens and young adults may be susceptible to marijuana misuse since they gravitate towards more easily accessible substances. Even though marijuana isn’t known to be as harmful as some illicit drugs or misused prescriptions, it can be dangerous, especially among adolescents. 

But what are the current marijuana statistics around the world?

How Many People Smoke Weed in the World

Marijuana is the most-used recreational drug around the world, after alcohol. While it’s strictly forbidden in some countries, the United States and Canada have embraced the substance for its potential tax revenue. 

According to the World Health Organization’s 2019 World Drug Report, nearly 200 million people smoke marijuana around the world. It may be difficult to determine if this is good or bad because of the miniscule evidence we have for the long-term effects of pot use. 

According to its 2020 Report, an estimated 3.98 of people between the ages of 15 and 64 use cannabis. Around 6.41% of people in Africa, 8.77% of people in the Americas, 2.01% of people in Asia, 5.45% of people in Europe, and 12% of people in Australia and New Zealand use cannabis. 

Teenage Marijuana Use Statistics

Marijuana is becoming more popular than cigarettes in the United States. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.6 million Americans over age 12 began smoking cigarettes for the first time within the past 12 months before the survey. During the same period, 3.5 million people began using marijuana. Of these, 1.4 million were between the ages of 12 and 17.

According to the survey, the perceived risk of using marijuana is also going down. The survey asked people of different age groups if they perceived “great risk,” “moderate risk,” “slight risk,” or “no risk” when smoking marijuana once or twice per week. In 2019, only 34.6% of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 said they perceived great risk. This represents a drop from 40.6% in 2015.

THC and Marijuana Consumption Statistics

Despite the fact that fewer people perceive risks in smoking marijuana, the THC content in the drug is growing. THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, and it’s the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana. THC is just one of many cannabinoids in cannabis, but it’s the one that’s most clearly associated with the drug’s high. Research has indicated that cannabis with high amounts of THC is associated with an increased risk of psychological issues like psychosis. According to the WHO 2020 Annual Drug Report, average THC levels in cannabis today have four times the amount of THC than the drug did in 1995. 

Another active cannabinoid in marijuana is CBD or cannabidiol. CBD is thought to provide a protective factor against some of the psychological effects of THC and may protect against THC-induced psychosis. However, as THC levels rise while CBD levels remain the same or lower, the ratio may lead to higher potency and more dangerous illicit marijuana.

In the United States, there has been an inconsistent approach to regulation. While some states will charge someone with possession, others boast of its legality. This is evident on the Kansas and Colorado border, where pot smokers can be arrested and charged with hefty fines and jail time if they bring the substance into Kansas.

It’s easy to point at the United States for its inconsistent regulations, but other countries in the world face the same challenges. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Europe has the highest global concentration of teenage marijuana users.

The European Union has a similar approach to the United States. In the Netherlands, for example, you can sit in a coffee shop and consume marijuana, but in Hungary, you can face jail time. To be clear, marijuana is not legal in the Netherlands, but rather, it is decriminalized.

Does the Global Community Have a Problem with Marijuana?

Dr. Thomas Pietschmann, a UN drug researcher who dedicated his life to studying drugs such as fentanyl and heroin, mentions that he is not concerned about people age 18 and over who occasionally smoke a joint. He says we don’t have evidence of people dying from the pot, but he cautions not to believe the extreme claims that surround marijuana.

Pietschmann doesn’t exactly advocate for the drug, but he mentions that people have said crime would decline when marijuana is legalized, which hasn’t happened. The same people said marijuana use would decrease, which also hasn’t happened.

A lit joint in a person's hand

The main issue with the substance is that too many people are smoking it. It has the potential to keep a person from thinking mathematically or abstractly, lose motivation, and sometimes cause accidents.

For a small minority, it can create mental health disorders, such as psychotic episodes. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana can cause severe issues.

The biggest issue that the researcher finds with marijuana is young people smoking it, which can be attributed to easier access because of legality in some places.

Marijuana usage in teens can adversely affect one’s development, IQ, and cause a lack of motivation.

The report mentioned above shows that youth marijuana use has also increased moderately.

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