Daily marijuana use surpasses daily drinking in US, study finds

For the first time, more Americans are using marijuana daily or nearly every day than those who drink alcohol that frequently, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Addiction

This shift has been 40 years in the making as recreational pot use has become mainstream and legal in nearly half of U.S. states.

Marijuana use stats

In 2022, an estimated 17.7 million people reported using marijuana daily or near-daily, compared to 14.7 million who drank that often, according to national survey data. This marks a significant increase from 1992, when less than 1 million reported near-daily marijuana use.

Alcohol vs. marijuana

Although alcohol remains more widely used overall, 2022 was the first year that intensive marijuana use surpassed daily drinking, said Jonathan Caulkins, a cannabis policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. 

He noted that 40% of current cannabis users consume it daily or near-daily, a pattern more akin to tobacco use.

Changing attitudes and legal landscape

From 1992 to 2022, the rate of daily marijuana use increased 15-fold. Caulkins suggests this rise is partly due to growing public acceptance, making individuals more willing to report their use. 

Most states now permit medical or recreational marijuana, though it remains federally illegal. Upcoming votes and federal movements may further change its legal status.

The growing acceptance of recreational marijuana use comes as the Biden administration recently took a historic step toward easing federal restrictions on cannabis, with plans to reclassify the drug for the first time since the Controlled Substances Act was enacted more than 50 years ago, sources with The Associated Press confirmed Tuesday.

RELATED: Marijuana will be rescheduled as less dangerous drug: Sources

The Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to approve an opinion by the Department of Health and Human Services that marijuana should be reclassified as a less dangerous drug.

The DEA’s proposal, which still must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would recognize the medical uses of cannabis and acknowledge it has less potential for abuse than some of the nation’s most dangerous drugs. 

However, it would not legalize marijuana outright for recreational use.

Risks of daily use

Despite the increased usage of marijuana and a growing cultural outlook that it is not as dangerous as once thought, there are still risks to smoking it every day.

High-frequency marijuana use raises the risk of addiction and cannabis-associated psychosis, said Dr. David A. Gorelick, a psychiatry professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The increasing number of daily users indicates a higher potential for problematic use and addiction.

The Associated Press and Stephanie Weaver contributed to this story.