Gen Z and Millennials are continuing the mainstreaming of weed use, as their own consumption keeps climbing…
- 21-39-year-olds are using marijuana more than they did even during the pandemic, when use increased significantly
- Almost one in four young adults are using marijuana every day
- They consider marijuana much less harmful for their health than alcohol, and the gap between them is growing
Last year, YPulse reported that more Millennials were smoking weed than ever before. Our Health, Drugs, and Risky Behaviors report found that the amount of 21-39-year-olds who had experimented with marijuana jumped from 33% before the pandemic, to 40% in 2021. While the pandemic was credited for a surge in drinking and cannabis use, while we’ve found their drinking levels have dropped back down, their use of marijuana keeps going up. This years’ survey data shows that 44% of 21-39-year-olds have now tried marijuana for recreational use, showing that young adults are steadily continuing to make marijuana a part of their routines. Just how often they’re using it is changing the fastest—we’ve asked young adults for years how often they’re using marijuana, and here’s what we’re seeing:
Their daily use has increased significantly since 2019
While their experimentation with marijuana and semi-frequent use has steadily increased, the number of 21-39-year-olds who use marijuana on a daily basis has increased most, from 3% in 2019 to 20% in 2022. This demographic saw the biggest increase in 2020, when 14% told YPulse they were using marijuana daily or almost daily. The stress and anxiety they felt from the pandemic taught them to embrace different methods of relaxing, and it looks like this is one of the aspects of their life that won’t be “going back to normal.” That doesn’t mean all brand new ideas, though, but definitely shifting attitudes; YPulse found in 2020 that marijuana was in the top 15 things that had been “like therapy” for young adults, and now, smoking is a regular part of life for more of them than ever. And, in comparison to other options, young adults are using marijuana daily much more than they report drinking alcohol everyday or almost everyday (11%), or even using more commercially popular CBD products (10%).
These young adults are certainly drivers of mainstream marijuna use, as University of Michigan even found that today’s young adults are using marijuana more than any group their age since 1988. The reason they’re embracing it might not only be about legalization and stress relief, though—they’re also seeing it well-packaged on their social media feeds. And, obviously, there are cannabis influencers on social media, including everyone from medical professionals to just celebrity advocates (who naturally have their own weed brands now).
Young adults view marijuana as less harmful than alcohol
YPulse has asked Gen Z and Millennials to rate a variety of substances and behaviors on a scale from 0-10, zero being “not harmful at all,” and 10 being “extremely harmful.” They have consistently shown that they believe marijuana is less harmful to one’s health than alcohol. This year, 32% of 21-39-year-olds rated marijuana as harmful (8-10 on the harmful scale) compared to 44% who rated alcohol as harmful. In fact, the amount of 21-39-year-olds who have rated marijuana “not harmful at all” has increased in the last several years, more than those who rate alcohol the same:
While the number of young people who say that alcohol is not harmful at all to one’s health has stayed incredibly low, 21% say that marijuana is not at all harmful, a 10 point increase from 2019. Compared to all other options of potentially harmful behaviors, (including substance use like alcohol, vaping, and behaviors like texting while driving) marijuana was rated less harmful than every other behavior save action sports, meaning it received lower harmful ratings than not just alcohol, but also responses like anxiety/depression and fast food . Alcohol, on the other hand, was ranked as more harmful than mushrooms / peyote and unprotected sex..
Earlier this year, YPulse told you about the changing trends of young adults’ alcohol consumption, and what we once called their “Sobriety Shift.” Though the pandemic had disrupted their decreasing use of alcohol, numbers have once again begun to drop, and shows their sober-curious mindset. Vox writes that “we’re manifesting a new definition of sobriety,” through the decriminalization and normalization of drug use as a method of wellness, meaning that “sober” to these young adults might mean cutting out alcohol and keeping in marijuana—just one more way they’re redefining the world they live in.
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