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It is no surprise that marijuana use has increased in Colorado since the state legalized the drug for recreational use. However, what is surprising is that new U.S. federal data shows that Rhode Island tops Colorado as pot capital of the country.
According to a new National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that nearly 16 percent of all residents of Rhode Island age 12 and over smoked pot in the past month during the period studied from 2012-2013. That is slightly below 1 out of 6 people.
By comparison, in Colorado, the rate is about 1 out of 8 Colorado residents older than 12 had used marijuana in the past month. That puts the state third in the usage data behind Rhode Island and the District of Columbia. While usage has increased in Colorado since the drug was legalized, it has increased in the other areas too, even though recreational use there is still a crime.
In the state of Washington, which more recently legalized marijuana use and limited possession, there has been an increase of about 20 percent in monthly pot use. In 2012-2013, approximately 12.3 percent of residents age 12 and older reported using pot.
Those states are well above the national norm. In the U.S., approximately 9.27 percent of those age 12 and over claim they use marijuana at least once a month. That is an increase of about 4 percent over the previous year.
More telling is the data for those between ages 18 through 25. In Colorado, D.C., Rhode Island and Vermont, more than 30 percent of residents between those ages used pot monthly.
So, curious which states appear to have the lowest monthly use of marijuana? The lowest usage is reported in Kansas, where only about 6 percent of the people over 12 light up once a month or more. Other states of the low end of the usage scale include South Dakota, West Virginia, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Idaho and Utah ( with percentages of 6.17, 6.34, 6.5, 6.62, 6.79, 6.84, and 6.98, respectively. Those states tended to be among the lowest in usage for the 18 to 25 group, too.
While the data is interesting, it primarily serves as a benchmark for Colorado and Washington. The survey did not include data from 2014, when the recreational marijuana shops opened in both states. Therefore, it may not be an accurate representation of usage in the states now. It will probably take several years to ascertain the true impact, since an increase the first year is undoubtedly likely but usage may taper off once the novelty is exhausted.
“I don’t think this tells us about the long-term impacts of legalization,” said Mark Kleiman, a University of California, Los Angeles, professor, who has done research in marijuana policy. He indicated that researchers will have a better idea about pot use in the states that legalized recreational sales of the drug and that Rhode Island tops Colorado as the U.S. marijuana capital now but is not likely to remain there in the future. However, Kleiman said indications show that the number of “people who are monthly users who are in fact daily users has gone way, way up,” he said.
By Dyanne Weiss
National Survey on Drug Use and Health