Poor and less well-educated consume more marijuana — study

© Issei Kato
Researchers in the US have found that the most frequent users of marijuana in the country are more likely to lack a high school education and earn less than $20,000.

The study, which was published in the August edition of the Journal of Drug Issues, examined over a decade’s worth of federal surveys of drug use, from 2002 to 2013, to see if researchers could pin down the profile of a marijuana user.

The conclusion that researchers Steven Davenport and Jonathan Caulkins arrived at was that users are more similar to cigarette smokers than alcohol drinkers.

The study details how since the early 1990s, the number of people using marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis has increased from one in nine to one in three in 2013. “Daily or near-daily users now account for over two-thirds of self-reported days of use (68 percent),” the study finds.

"What’s going on here is that over the last 20 years marijuana went from being used like alcohol to being used more like tobacco, in the sense of lots of people using it every day," Caulkins told the Washington Post.

When the team digged a little deeper, they also found that 19 percent of marijuana users in 2012 and 2013 lacked a high school diploma, in comparison to 13 percent of the total adult population, and 20 percent of all cigarette users.

In addition, 29 percent of all marijuana use (and 27 percent of of cigarette use) is by those who have annual earnings of less than $20,000, with 15 percent spending a full quarter of their income on marijuana.

The study also delved into the criminal risk that comes with using marijuana and found that as marijuana laws became more liberal over the past decade, the number of marijuana arrests fell. In 2002. There was one arrest for every 550 marijuana purchases but that fell to one arrest for every 1,090 purchases by 2013.

Caulkins also told the newspaper that while “most people who have used marijuana in the past year are in full control of their use, and are generally happy with that use," there are some issues to take note of.

"Consumption is highly concentrated among the smaller number of daily and near-daily users, and they tend to be less educated, less affluent, and less in control of their use,” he noted.

"There is a sharp contrast between what policy is best for the typical user versus what is best for the people who consume most of the marijuana," Caulkins said, noting that while they would support liberal marijuana laws, they should be accompanied by treatment programs and public awareness campaigns.