Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on January 13, 2023

The cannabis plant, which has been used since ancient times, has various purposes. It’s used recreationally, as a medical drug, or in spiritual practices all over the world, and even more so after the pandemic. Medical marijuana users mostly consume CBD-rich strains to treat conditions such as epilepsy and chronic pain, while recreational users consume THC-rich strains as a way to decompress after work or while socializing with friends. Legalization laws have further increased weed consumption in states where you can legally buy it, and that is expected to increase as the cannabis market expands.

Opioid prevalence and cannabis consumption have become the new normal for a lot of people during the coronavirus pandemic as isolation has led millions of people to substance abuse. According to the 2021 World Drug Report, around 275 million people used drugs in the last year.

This article will give a summary of a few statistics from all over the world and discuss how many marijuana users are there all over the world.

Marijuana Use and Its Popularity

People have consumed marijuana for over 10, 000 years, dating back to ancient civilizations. Its popularity started to rise again in the 1930’s, after the Mexicans brought “marihuana” in the US after the Mexican revolution. However, its use was lowered with the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 all over the US, until it was finally criminalized with the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s. But this criminalization couldn’t last forever, so back in 1973, Oregon became the first US state to decriminalize weed and from then, marijuana use blossomed. 

Throughout the years, weed’s popularity rose and many US states and other countries all over the world started decriminalizing it. Its use only increases each year and the global cannabis market is expected to reach $41.5 billion by 2025.

Cannabis Consumption in Europe

When it comes to decriminalization laws, Europe was there first. Even though weed became very popular with the hippie movement, it truly became decriminalized in Europe first. Decriminalization started in the Netherlands in the 1970s when the Dutch government legalized the sale of cannabis in coffee shops for citizens over 18 years old. 

In the meantime, the US was amidst Ronal Reagan’s “War on Drugs” and weed was illegal all around the US. Europe, on the other hand, had a very high concentration of young cannabis smokers, and weed was becoming very popular all over Europe, especially in the European Union countries.

It’s also important to note that weed wasn’t as potent back in the ’70s as it is today. Around 50 years ago, the THC levels in weed were less than 10% (around 3% to be more exact). Today, these levels can be up to 30% for some cannabis strains as cannabis legalization is on the rise and it’s not likely to stop any time soon.

Marijuana Use Among Young People and Legalization Laws 

As we’ve previously mentioned, weed has become legal in 18 US states in the last few years. In Canada, weed was legalized back in 2018, so you can purchase it in legal dispensaries for recreational use and medical use all over the country, and this law was also passed in Uruguay back in 2013. Even New Zealand voted for cannabis legalization in 2020, although the referendum had more people against it, therefore cannabis is still illegal there.

Apart from the tax income the US states would get from legalizing marijuana, one of the major reasons for its legalization was the expectation that once weed was decriminalized, the use of weed would decrease, as would the crimes related to weed. However, this wasn’t the case. Weed consumption didn’t decrease, rather its consumption increased, and especially the consumption of weed among people in high school and young people around the age of 25. This may become a problem in the future, as cannabis use at a young age may affect brain development and IQ levels in youth according to a 2015 study.

But how many people actually consume cannabis all over the world? The next paragraphs will answer this question.

What Percentage of the World Smokes Cannabis?

The 2021 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report noted that “the most widely used drug globally continues to be cannabis with a total of 4% of the population in the world aged 15-64 having used cannabis at least once in 2019 or about 200 million people in total.” 

In general, cannabis use has grown over 60% in the last decade, and last year youth cannabis use increased even more as a result of the pandemic. Furthermore, only 40% of youth perceive cannabis as harmful, and as the cannabis market expands, and more and more states legalize cannabis, this number will definitely increase.

According to the report, cannabis is mostly cultivated in European countries, US states where weed is legal, and Canada, and to a lesser extent in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay. Indoor cannabis cultivation is also found in Australia, New Zealand, as well as Asian countries such as Iran, Israel, China, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, and Georgia. Only the countries in Africa haven’t reported indoor cannabis cultivation to UNODC.

Statistics in the United States

According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the percentage of marijuana users aged 12 or older increased from 25.8 million people (11%) in 2002 to 48.2 million people (17.5%) in 2019. 

The same report noted an increase in cannabis consumption in the age group 12 to 17. While in 2002 there were 3.9 million people (15.8%) who consumed weed aged 12 to 17, in 2019 the number decreased to 3.3 million people (13.2%).

The percentage of young adults aged 18 to 25 who used marijuana in 2002 was 9.2 million people (29.8%) and that number increased to 12 million people (35.4%) in 2019. Adults aged over 26 also had an increase in cannabis consumption. In 2002, 12.6 million people (7%) of the population consumed cannabis, and that number increased to 33 million people (15.2%) in 2019.

How Many Americans Use Weed Regularly? 

Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the US and people either grow it, purchase it through legal dispensaries, or buy it through a pot dealer, Craigslist, or the dark web. A 2017 Yahoo News Marist Poll survey titled “Weed & the American Family” reviews how Americans view marijuana use. According to the article:

  • More than half of adults in the US have tried weed, and out of that number, nearly 55 million (22%) have used it at least once or twice in the past year.
  • According to public opinion, over 60% of the population believes that marijuana should be legalized.
  • Even though 83% of Americans support medical marijuana in the Marist Poll and national surveys, 49% of respondents believe that the use of marijuana should be legal for recreational users, while 47% are opposed.
  • 72 % of Americans believe that regular alcohol use is a greater health risk compared to regular marijuana use. 
  • 51 % believe that marijuana use poses health risks, while 44% believe it doesn’t.
  • Out of the 55 million pot users, 52% are millennials out of which the majority users are males who lack a college degree and make under $50,000 a year.
  • Cannabis users hide their stash from children, law enforcement, and parents/grandparents.
  • Out of all the adult marijuana users, 54% are parents, and out of them a majority have children under the age of 18 (16 million).
  • In states such as Colorado where weed is legalized, there’s an increase in incidents where small children eat cannabis edibles and need to be rushed to the emergency room.
  • 72% of marijuana users have told their parents, and 60% of them have even told their kids.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), consuming weed can have side effects on brain health, mental health, athletic performance, driving, the baby’s health and development if it’s consumed during pregnancy, as it can affect everyday life and all its aspects. Moreover, 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted to the drug, and if they start before the age of 18, the rate rises to 1 in 6.


In an age where the global pandemic (Covid-19) has kept us all in our homes, cannabis use has increased dramatically. According to the 2021 UNODC report, about 4% of the population in the world aged 15-64 has used cannabis in the past year. People have found weed to be an escape from reality, loneliness, and mental health issues which have also increased in the past year. And this trend isn’t expected to slow down. As the cannabis market is expected to expand even more and new countries are looking into legalization laws, we can only wait and see how much the numbers of marijuana users will increase in the future.

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.