When it comes to drug use, young people get labeled as the main drug users. It’s widely believed that teenagers and young adults indulge in drug use to fit in with their peers. There are so many stories of the 40-year-old man who used cannabis in college but, after he graduated, never touched the drug again. However, many stories also exist of the 70-year-old woman who has been consistently using cannabis for the past 40 years.
It can be a toss-up when determining what group of people use cannabis more, and it can get divided into many sectors. For example, do members of the black community use cannabis more often than people in the white community? Do younger people use cannabis more than middle-aged people? It’s a tricky question to crack, and the picture can be murky with cannabis laws eased across the country. In some states, younger people use it more than older people, which could be vice versa in other states.
Below we will take a comprehensive look across the country regarding cannabis use. For example, is there a group of people where it is, generationally or racially, that indulge in cannabis use more than others? We will also examine some of the stereotypes of cannabis use regarding demographics.
Stereotypes and cannabis
During the counterculture revolution of the 60s and 70s, cannabis got labeled as a “white people” or hippie drug. The revolution was an attempt by the people of the baby boomer generation to fight back against the norms of their parent generation. A generation that primarily saw cannabis as evil and should get eradicated from American soil. So naturally, it was a drug used widely by the youth.
This stereotype of cannabis remained until the beginning of the crack epidemic in the 1980s, which lasted until the mid-90s. Then there was a shift; young black people became the primary users of the drug. Not only were they seen as the users but the suppliers of drugs to other people. A narrative that very much is still the dominant thought today.
What does the number say?
While the stereotype says that young black people are the primary users of cannabis, there is more nuance to those stereotypes.
When it comes to a complete breakdown of cannabis users, the primary cannabis users are millennial men within the American Indian, Alaska, and black communities. While these may be the people with the higher usage and purchase of cannabis, other groups do not fall far behind. Members of Gen Z and women are catching up to their counterparts in these statistics.
Also, one of the significant results is that while black, Indian, and Alaskan natives use cannabis more, white cannabis users are not far behind, and numbers suggest they are catching up. African Americans make up 20.4% of users, while whites make up 18.9%. Things are rapidly changing in the country as more people get exposed to cannabis.
Older people who would have never touched cannabis during their youth are now engaging in it, whether for health reasons or recreational use. Baby boomers, the first to bring cannabis into the mainstream, still hold a steady portion of cannabis users in America. They make up 15.8% of all cannabis users, placing them second in front of Gen Z and the silent generation. Demographics change rapidly in many different areas, but when it comes to cannabis, it has been going through such a revamp in the American psyche that more people are looking to use it. Also, with changing laws and gender equality, people of all races and sexes can now engage in cannabis use without fear or reprisal.
It should be no surprise that the numbers regarding cannabis use are closer than some may think. This outcome is because curiosity exists not just in one group; many people are interested in what cannabis can do. In addition, with cannabis laws eased across the country, the procurement of cannabis is much easier. Finally, people are getting exposed to cannabis positive messaging that makes the idea of trying cannabis no longer a dirty thing but a widely accepted thing.
The issue with stereotypes and demographics is that the stereotype is grossly exaggerated to make it seem like one particular group makes up 100% of the users. Young white men in the 60s and 70s were not the only ones who used cannabis; even then, they may not have been the majority. But certain narratives catch on, and people latch on to them.
However, not understanding demographics can be harmful. For example, the difference between black and white users is minimal, yet black people are four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related offenses. Not understanding demographics can lead to a gross misunderstanding and demonization of certain groups. Hopefully, demographics can be better understood and respected with more time and education.