Cannabis is on its way to becoming mainstream. A survey conducted by The Harris Poll in partnership with Ad Age found that Americans see cannabis legalization on the horizon, and that the stigma surrounding cannabis consumption is fading away. The survey also found that most cannabis users tend to consume cannabis for its medicinal benefits, rather than just for leisure.  

A significant portion of U.S. adults report that they use cannabis, and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased consumption in some users. 

One third (36%) of US adults aged 21 and older currently use cannabis or cannabis products (i.e., products that contain THC or CBD). However, over half (53%) of Millennials report that they currently use cannabis or cannabis products. An additional 12% of US adults aged 21 and older have previously used cannabis, but no longer do. The same number of people surveyed have never tried cannabis products, but are interested in doing so.

Cannabis users seemed to favor recreational usage over medical usage, although those two types of usage can overlap. People reported that they consume cannabis or cannabis products for recreational purposes (24% of all adults, 67% of all users) more than medical purposes (19% of all adults, 52% of all users). 

Some cannabis users report that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on cannabis usage, although the effect does not seem to be very strong. About half (53%) of current cannabis users have not changed their usage since the COVID-19 pandemic began. A third (33%) of current cannabis users report that they increased their usage since the beginning of the pandemic last year. However, the conditions and stressors surrounding the pandemic haven’t seemed to produce new users. Only 3% of current cannabis users started consuming cannabis before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. 

While cannabis users often use it to help deal with life’s stressors, prospective users are more interested in medical benefits. 

More than half of current cannabis users do so to relax or sleep better (59% and 52% respectively). Improving sleep is a priority for those who haven’t tried cannabis but are interested in doing so, with 55% of prospective users pointing to this as a motivator to try cannabis. With that being said, pain management is their top priority. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of prospective users are interested in trying cannabis to manage pain. 

In general, leisure is a lesser motivator for cannabis usage. Only 22% of current users look to cannabis in social situations or to enhance an experience. Similarly, only 18% use cannabis as a substitute for other substances, like alcohol or psychedelics. 

Using cannabis for leisure does increase for those who report using cannabis specifically for recreational usage. Although, usage for leisure still lags behind medical applications. 29% of recreational users report that they consume cannabis in social situations. 30% report that they use to enhance an experience, and 22% say that they use to replace other substances. 

Americans are growing more comfortable with cannabis as a medicinal and recreational substance. Because of that, disinterest, more than discomfort, drives the decision to avoid cannabis. 

Of the 60% of US adults aged 21 or older who say they do not currently use cannabis products, 48% report that they are simply not interested in doing so. That said, the unwanted side effects of cannabis still play a role in the decision to avoid cannabis.  17% of survey respondents report that they do not use cannabis because they are concerned about the potential side effects. Previous users report that cost (27%), and a loss of interest in consuming cannabis (25%) drove their decision to stop using. 

In general, cannabis is no longer seen as truly taboo. Less than a quarter (24%) of all US adults look down on cannabis users. Similarly, only 9% of non-users report that they do not use cannabis because of the stigma that surrounds it. Over two-thirds (68%) of all US adults agree that it is safe to use. This number drastically increases for people who currently consume cannabis, with 90% of current users viewing cannabis as a safe substance. 

Looking ahead, Americans see legalization on the horizon – and most are on board.

Eight in 10 (84%) of all US adults agree that the US government will legalize cannabis usage for medical purposes within the next 5 years, and 77% support medical legalization. 

While this number goes slightly down for federal recreational legalization, most Americans still see it in the near future. Seven in 10 (71%) of all US adults agree that the US government will legalize cannabis usage for recreational purposes within the next 5 years, and 52% support such measures. Younger people support cannabis legalization strongly. Millennials express stronger support for both recreational legalization (73% vs 52% of all adults) and broader decriminalization of cannabis (72% vs 62% of all US adults).

Methodology:  

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Adweek from December 3-6, 2021 among 1,056 US adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. For more information on methodology, please contact Madelyn Franz or Andrew Laningham.

 

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Get the full data tabs for this survey conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Adweek between December 3-6, 2021, among 1,056 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

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Andrew Laningham

Research Analyst

Download the Data

Get the full data tabs for this survey conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Adweek between December 3-6, 2021, among 1,056 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

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