In Seattle, Marijuana Usage Tops Cigarettes

That is a headline that can make you smile. With over half of the U.S. states making marijuana legal in some form, it is a common assertion to declare that marijuana usage is on the rise. With more states legalizing the drug each year, the number of marijuana consumers has been rising accordingly. In fact, in certain areas of the country, marijuana consumption is finally outpacing another drug that boasts millions of users. Recent data suggest that for the first time in history, marijuana usage in Seattle exceeds that of nicotine consumption.

Roughly 17% of individuals 18 years or older in Seattle have consumed cannabis over the past 30 days, according to research done by market-research company, Nielsen. That figure represents the fourth highest consumption among over 60 large metro areas, trailing Portland, Las Vegas and Denver. And it edges out the use of nicotine products, including cigarettes, other tobacco products, and electronic cigarettes. All tallied, they were consumed by roughly 16% of adults in the Seattle metro area.

In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Many more states were soon to follow. Notably, Nevada, Illinois, Maine, Alaska, Massachusetts, California, Michigan, Vermont, and Oregon have since legalized recreational use. An additional 22 states have made cannabis legal for medical use only. Given recent polling and the wave of states opting for legalization, a clear majority of Americans support legal cannabis.

Still, not many people would have predicted that marijuana would be more popular than nicotine in such a short period of time. The recent data from Nielsen suggests that not only is marijuana consumption still growing, but it is cutting a chunk out of the market share of other recreational substances. Similarly, the data shows that the average cannabis user has a significantly higher income than nicotine users and a lower average age.

While marijuana usage currently trumps nicotine in Seattle, neither substance comes close to alcohol consumption rates. The data indicates that a shade under half of Seattle adults consumed alcohol within the past 30 days.

Some may pass off this milestone as a high point of an emerging market, predicting future marijuana usage rates may prove difficult as the uncertainty surrounding the drug’s federal status looms. Yet, with a presidential election only months away, a change in administration may finally signal a national review of its marijuana policy along with a comprehensive overhaul of the Controlled Substances Act.

Aaron Pelley

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