While the political discourse and iconic celebrity mortality rate in 2016 left much to be desired, it was an undeniably good year for cannabis. Not only did eight additional states vote to implement medicinal or recreational cannabis—bringing the total national number to 26, over half the United States—but the industry brought in a massive amount of cash as well.
In fact, 2016 was such a financially good year for the marijuana industry that ArcView Group (a cannabis industry consultant firm) reported last week that marijuana sales are outpacing the dotcom boom of the 2000s. The expert firm has also released data showing that the legal marijuana market raked in $6.7 billion in sales in 2016. Survey data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, gives valuable insight into the state-by-state breakdown of marijuana consumption over 2014-2015.
The NSDUH data shows that in places where recreational cannabis is legal— such as Washington, D.C. and Colorado— nearly a quarter of the state’s residents used marijuana at least once a year. That number is double the overall national average, and nearly triple the amount as in heavily restricted states like Alabama or Mississippi (around only 8 to 9 percent).
A quick look at the color-coded map showcases the West Coast and Northeast as the most prominent regions when it comes marijuana use, while Colorado and Alaska appear as deviations from the norm in their geographical regions. Ultimately, the state-level data shows that cannabis use is highest in areas with recreational or medical legislation. One could likely chalk this up to a mix of the higher accessibility of cannabis and the more relaxed attitude these states have towards marijuana in general.
The cannabis and alcohol consumption data also have some striking similarities. For instance, New England ranked highly in both cannabis and alcohol consumption, while Southern states like Mississippi and Alabama ranked at the bottom tier of both. The likeness of the data dissipated in the Northern Plains, where people were shown to be heavy drinkers but generally abstain from cannabis use.
Interestingly enough, although public health experts consider both alcohol use and cannabis consumption to be bad for health, New England still remains one of the healthiest regions in the US. The cannabis use map also seems to correlate with the political leanings of each state. Since progressive and more left-leaning states are more likely to have recreational or medical cannabis legislation, use also appears to be higher in blue states.
All in all, the NSDUH's latest data shows that states with recreational and medical legalization have higher rates of cannabis use, while states without legislation do not. While some aspects of the data may not be surprising, it does provide insight into what a difference a state line can make.