Marijuana Use Has Risen To Historic Levels — And Isn’t Slowing Down

More adults aged 35 to 50 are using cannabis than at any point since 1976.

A middle-aged man lighting a joint.
The Fatherly Guide To Weed

Middle-aged adults have long been on an upward trajectory in terms of their pot use. And according to a new study, this age group reached a historic, ahem, high in 2022, with more adults aged 35 to 50 using marijuana than ever before.

In 2022, 28% of adults aged 35 to 50 reported using weed at least once in the past year, compared to 25% of adults this age in 2021, 17% in 2017, and 13% in 2012. The percent of adults in this age group who vaped marijuana has remained steady at 9% since that data started being collected in 2019.

The findings come from the Monitoring the Future study, a study that has been tracking substance use behaviors and attitudes among adults aged 19 to 60 since 1976.

The 35 to 50 crowd isn’t just breaking records in terms of marijuana use though. More adults this age reported binge drinking at least once in the past year in 2022 — 29% of them — than ever before. In comparison, rates of binge drinking were 26% in 2021, 25% in 2017, and 23% in 2012.

More of that 35 to 50 crowd was also drinking any amount of alcohol, albeit a much smaller increase — with any drinking in the past year increasing from 83% in 2012 to 85% in 2022.

“Substance use is not limited to teens and young adults, and these data help us understand how people use drugs across the lifespan,” Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funds the study, said in a press release.

Middle-aged adults weren’t the only ones more likely to try weed; young adults were too. Forty-four percent of those aged 19 to 30 said they had used cannabis at least once in the past year, and 11% reported using it daily. That’s in comparison to 35% who reported using it at least once in the past year in 2017 and 28% in 2012, and 8% who reported daily use in 2017 and 6% in 2012.

Marijuana vaping also increased among the 19 to 30 age group, with more young adults vaping than any time since that data began being collected in 2017. The percentage of young adults who reported vaping marijuana in the past year increased from 12% in 2017 to 21% in 2022.

An Opinion editor for global analytics firm Gallup wrote that he predicts pot use will continue to increase into the near future because more and more states are legalizing it, and because more than half of Americans say they aren’t convinced cannabis use harms those who partake or society at large.

Additionally, half of Americans now say that they’ve tried weed at least once, Gallup reports.

Marijuana does come with health risks to adults, including damage to the lungs and heart. It can also impact the mind, such as by hurting memory, learning, and attention. Because research on marijuana is limited due to criminalization at the federal level, it’s unclear what other potential risks it poses to health.

That said, cannabis is likely a healthier alternative to alcohol for adults who want to relax with the aid of a substance.

For parents, using weed is a little more complicated, but it’s still possible to use responsibly. Check out Fatherly’s A Parent’s Guide To Getting High for all the resources you need.