Compared to the other activities on this list, cannabis doesn’t cause or exacerbate any disease, it won’t give you a hangover, and it probably won’t empty your savings account.
As of July 2021, cannabis has been legalized recreationally in 18 states and medically in 36 states and additional territories, with census data indicating that states with legalized cannabis accounting for a majority of national population growth. That’s a lot of joints being burned every day. But has cannabis become our nation’s number one vice? Data point to no.
Scrolling through social media or taking a trip to a legal state’s big cities, it’s easy to assume everyone is smoking cannabis these days in favor of other activities. But as it turns out, most of the people with legal access to cannabis aren’t in a hurry to spark up; a Gallup poll from 2019 indicates only about 12% of Americans smoke cannabis, but isn’t clear on how often. And while new surveys indicate certain demographics, like seniors, are using it more and more frequently, it still trails a number of more harmful American pastimes.
Per capita, the United States ranks 25th in global alcohol consumption, and over 85% of American adults have consumed alcohol in their lifetime. While there’s nothing wrong with a glass of wine with dinner, an estimated 25% of adults binge-drink, and as many as 15 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder.
Despite a downward trend, around 14% of American adults regularly smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use, according to the CDC, is the leading case of “preventable disease, disability, and death” in the United States. Smoking remains especially prevalent in vulnerable populations, like indigenous communities, disabled people, and people living below the poverty line.
All states except Utah and Hawaii permit some form of legal gambling, an industry that brought in over $43 billion in consumer spending in 2019, and 15 percent of Americans gamble weekly. The National Council on Problem Gaming estimates two million American adults have a severe gambling problem, with up to six million experiencing repercussions due to their behavior.
Looking at these numbers, maybe more people should try cannabis. Compared to the other vices on this list, cannabis doesn’t cause or exacerbate any disease, it won’t give you a hangover, and it can’t empty your savings account in the blink of an eye. Stigma and lack of access have clear influences on who consumes, but times are changing.