Legal Weed: Who Smokes?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Marijuana (Federacion de Asociaciones Cannabicas/flickr)

Mark Kleiman, professor of public policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, marijuana legalization consultant for Washington state, and co-author of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs To Know, kicks off a May series on marijuana with a look at who smokes and why. Plus: your calls on whether you're seeing a public opinion shift.

“60 percent of all the use days of cannabis in the US are by people who don’t have a high school diploma”

“It turns out that very heavy smoking is concentrated at the lower end of the educational distribution, which of course is also the lower end of the socio-economic distribution. So there’s a number of people that smoke a lot, they account for most of the days of use," Kleiman said.

25% of the total use of cannibis is by people under 21 – and it would remain illegal for them

 “Not all the people without high school diplomas are dropouts. Some of them are below graduation age. That number includes high school students who are a substantial fraction of the market for cannabis. When we talk about legalization, people tend to forget that about a quarter of the total use of cannabis is people who are under 21 – for whom it won’t be legal even after legalization… It means we’re only legalizing about three-quarters of the market.” 

Baby boomers who are rediscovering pot may be in for a surprise

 “I think there’s a little bit of evidence that as the boomers retire, they may go back to old practices. And one possible consequence of state-level legalization is that respectable members of their community who don’t want to be seen doing something illegal will go back to cannabis use once they can buy it in a store. And that’s a concern for the regulators because the cannabis that people were smoking in 1970 is not the stuff that’s on the market today… So there’s a question of how you appropriately inform returning consumers who may think that they’re sophisticated marijuana users – but aren’t sophisticated about today’s pot.”  

Stats on pot smokers are hard to nail down

“There are two different surveys of [marijuana use among] adolescents… And it turns out that if you ask kids in school whether they smoke pot, a lot more of them say yes than if you ask them at home. So, all of these numbers should be taken with a certain amount of qualification. But there’s no doubt that the age of first use of cannabis has dropped radically since I was a teenager… And that’s really not good.” 


Mark Kleiman

Comments [52]

BrianElvis from NYC

Being a good & responsible neighbor can be achieved by using a bat/dugout & The Smokebuddy. No smoke is produced & smell is minimal. Be responsible people.

May. 29 2013 01:28 AM

I just want to add...alcohol is legal, and it isn't safe for everyone. Some people can have a drink now and then and be fine, but for some people it can lead to addiction and psychological issues. Wouldn't it make sense that any brain-altering chemical is going to affect each person differently? Hell, I've seen some people be pretty crazy if they don't get their coffee! I think we should be aware of the potential for problematic effects associated with marijuana, just like anything else we put in our bodies. The one good thing about it is that it hasn't been co-opted by Monsanto yet so as far as I know weed is pesticide free!

May. 23 2013 06:00 AM
jf from REALITY


May. 15 2013 10:01 AM
jf from REALITY


May. 15 2013 09:57 AM

"john from office", May. 02 2013 10:07 AM:

"If you are a trust fund baby, upper middle class kid, you can afford to waste your time. Blacks and hispanics or anyone in the lower classes are wasting their time and lowering their IQs at the same time."

"Upper middle class kid[s]", overwhelmingly White and Asian, can smoke pot and consume other illicit substances, largely with impugnity. When done by Black and Latino youth, however, the exact same "crimes", non-violent and at least /relatively/ victimless, are FAR more likely to result in arrest, harrassment and, far too often, become the point-of-entry into a vicious, destructive cycle that benefits no one-- save for those invested in the prison-industrial complex.

How about doing a show on the increasing /privatization/ of the prison system, for example?

May. 14 2013 04:26 PM

@ Rich_P, May. 02 2013 10:08 AM:


Well, if the reason is that you're troubled, or if you find yourself dependent-upon alcohol, and certainly if your consumption of it is excessive...

Any of those would obviously be cause for concern.

Granted, I don't know you at all beyond the limited interaction we have had here. But you've been nice enough to me that I can say that, at least to whatever minimal degree could be expected and considered reasonable, I am concerned.

May. 14 2013 03:28 PM

DE-criminalize weed, RE-criminalize* buggery.

*Or at least stop /whitewashing/ and effectively /promoting/ this manifestly gruesome, danger, anatomy and physiology-defying pseudo sex-act. And stop conflating it with /homosexuality/, an /orientation/. See the works of homosexual dissidents such as Bill Weintraub, Luke Shelton and Chuck Tarver at and Rob McGee at and

Buggery is thuggery!

May. 14 2013 03:11 PM

You're saying that you provided a hospital patient a pot-laced brownie without his knowledge or permission? If this is correct, it's not only illegal (as is spiking someone's drink), but unethical regardless of your motive.

May. 08 2013 06:28 AM
PJ from Bergen County, NJ

I was hospitalized in the mid 80's with pnuemonia for 9 days. I had a roommate who was an older Jewish fellow who was non stop kvetching about "God, come and take me, My children, they don't want to come here to see me." This went on round the clock for days. I called my weed dealer asked his wife to make some brownies. I was munching and I twisted this guy's arm to have one. Half an hour later, he said, he wanted to be discharged, he's been cured! His children came an hour later and complimented how good and healthy he looks and how elegantly he was talking since being cured. 2 Hours later he was in a deep relaxing sleep. I was discharged a few days later, the guy was moved to another room. I doubt he ever realized it that I was the one who gave him a few hours of enjoying life instead of being the miserable curr he was.

May. 06 2013 10:19 AM

Jack and aklags, whether you like it or not, smoking pot can cause cancer and the research supports this.Sorry that this bothers you. There have been segments before on NPR documenting this increased risk. Even in developing areas of the world smoke from cooking pot fires can cause cancer.My cousin's husband has smoked pot daily, not cigarettes, and he is currently suffering some of the same cardiovascular problems that my mother suffered from as a cigarette smoker. Apparently the "researcher" has developed a mechanism for eliminating the hydrocarbons which is the dangerous part of being exposed to smoke. Like "safer sex" campaigns, I think children should educated about the risks of many many medications as well as alcohol and be given common sense and pragmatic advice about what makes use safer and what makes use more risky. For instance, the fact that binge drinking is much more dangerous than a sip of alcohol (and then sneaking into the bathroom and dumping the rest of your drink into the toilet) if you are stuck at a party where your friends are pressuring you to drink. Or, eating a brownie rather than proving you can inhale a ton of smoke in your lungs and hold it. As for me, I'd rather not be around any smoker of any substance since my sinuses have never been able to tolerate it.

May. 02 2013 04:01 PM
Smoker from USA

To: The Truth from Becky and other readers

"Legalization is the beginning of the end.." ...of so many of us having to keep our "secret" in the "closet."

May. 02 2013 03:12 PM

A growing body of neurological research reveals links between cannabis use and psychosis in some individuals. Who smokes marijuana? People from all age groups and walks of life. And those I know who do, all claim it to be harmless.

But cannabis can cause short-term psychotic symptoms, and its use may also trigger severe mental illness—such as schizophrenia or bipolar—in biologically at-risk individuals and especially teens. Symptoms of psychosis may be transient, or set-off a biological chain reaction resulting in lifelong mental illness. Studies show that cannabis use can interfere with the development of the adolescent brain, significantly increasing the likelihood of developing a mental illness in their lifetime.

Is it true that many people will smoke marijuana and never suffer negative side effects? Yes. But to classify marijuana as a harmless drug discounts all evidence pointing to the contrary. And for those of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies when pot seemed innocuous, the high potency of the cannabis available today poses an increased risk.

With mental illness a major topic in mainstream media right now, it is perplexing to me why the connection between drug use and serious psychiatric disease is not discussed more openly. I'm not demonizing pot, but its non-medical use can bring unintended long-term consequences.

May. 02 2013 02:58 PM

fuva from harlemworld, 11:02 a.m.:

Good point and, I believe, true for any substance that is not strictly regulated: you can never know just what you are really getting.

This applies, at least to a degree, even to certain completely /legal/ substances, such as "nutritional supplements", which lack strict regulation. I used the quotation marks to make a point: this legal category is so wide that it has allowed even /hormones/ such as melatonin, for example, to skirt the regulation they otherwise would be subjected-to (as the /drugs/ they actually are).

It is also said that the /impurities/ commonly present in various illicit drugs are far more harmful and deadly than anything /inherent/ to the drugs themselves.
emjayay, 11:15 a.m.:
"There is typically no air circulation between apartments."

Maybe that is true in buildings that were constructed and are maintained well enough. But I've lived in three buildings now, all of them older and none especially well-maintained (an understatement for at least two). In all three buildings, odors absolutely would travel between apartments. When anyone in any of the apartments below mine would smoke, the smoke absolutely would enter my apartment.
Drug policy is one of the areas that:
- made Ron Paul a tempting candidate for me
-I voted for Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode in _spite_ of his position on

May. 02 2013 01:51 PM

@ jvanscha from Mexico City (May. 02 2013 10:49 AM): That is indeed an interesting observation to report and I'm sure I'm not alone in finding it somewhat surprising.

Nonetheless, I don't see it as an argument against marijuana, /per se/ but more of an illustration, simply, of irresponsible parenting. What about all the parents who neglect their children due to /alcohol/? Or any number of other things, including being enslaved to their cellphones/Ipads/ laptops/what-have-you?
Rosie from NYC (10:58 AM):

"Alcohol and tobacco are more lethal and more addictive but legal?"

1.) Whether or not alcohol and tobacco are /more/ lethal and more addictive than marijuana, they certainly appear to be no /less/ so.

2.) Alc. and tob. are not merely /legal/ but actually /sanctioned/ and /promoted/ in numerous ways.

So, yes, the glaring inconsistency in how the respective substances are treated certainly does seem hypocritical.

"When are we going to stop the hypocrisy?"

I'm afraid hypocrisy is endemic to the human condition.

Tiffany from Long Island City (10:48 AM):

Did I read you correctly as considering the consumption of alcohol in front of your children to constitute less of a negative influence upon them than the consumption of marijuana?

I wonder how you justify that.
jessy from nyc, 11:00 a.m.:

If you've been smoking consistently since you were 13, then I suppose you really can't know if and how your levels of ambition and achievement would be different had you not been continually under the influence of marijuana all these years.

May. 02 2013 01:49 PM
Jack from NYC

"Apparently pot is more carcinogenic than regular cigarettes" - Susan from UWS


May. 02 2013 12:57 PM
Researcher in NYC

I'm a white male with a PhD in his mid 30s who does cancer research here in NYC. I have many high impact publications and I have smoked since high school (not daily). Out of respect for the other residents in my co-op, I use a vaporizer so that there is no smoke or smell....this results in me breathing in THC, rather than smoking the dangerous hydrocarbons in marijuana...therefore eliminating my lungs from the equation. This never happens before work or when I know I'm going to be around lots of people (out of fear of being judged)...and only a few times a week at most. My wife prefers a glass of wine. I know many other people who have similar habits.

The point is that many people can be "pot smokers" without having any negative impact on others whatsoever and that stereotypes don't always apply. I understand the fear parents have for their children, but I personally feel legalization will take the mystique away from smoking pot and possibly make it less unattractive to young adults.

May. 02 2013 12:47 PM
Margarita from Astoria, NY

Everyone minus my stick-in-the-mud father smokes! God I wish he would! I guess I can always turn into a baker ;)

May. 02 2013 12:38 PM
The Truth from Becky

Legalization is the beginning of the end....

May. 02 2013 11:49 AM
Anonymous from Unknown

I've taken 1 - 2 puffs every single day for 40 years.

Got a masters degree. Started a few companies. Have a good life. Drive all the time. Extremely active. Don't drink very much though.

Anyone who has never smoked weed has no idea what they're talking about and should just be quiet. It is so mild and so pleasant. You clearly have an incorrect idea of what the whole thing is about.

You have no idea how many people take puffs and are walking among you.

May. 02 2013 11:29 AM

In my experience it's more likely to be lower level jobs that test for drugs, including marijuana. The federal government only drug tests for certain occupations, like police or military. But companies like Home Depot spent a lot of money testing all prospective employees who they are paying nine dollars an hour with no benefits. It's hard to imagine what they think they get for their money. A heavy drinking worker is clearly much more likely to perform poorly on the job and be unreliable than one who smokes a little pot, and even if they test for blood alcohol it disappears from the blood in a day while marijuana can be detected for weeks.

Does anyone know anything about the legality of employment blood testing for a legal substance like alcohol, or marijuana in Colorado or states with medical marijuana?

May. 02 2013 11:28 AM
Ann C from New York

I'm pretty old and about 2/3rds of the kids in my high school freshman class(so 13 and 14 yrs old) smoked pot,and many many started at 11 or 12. Neither good nor bad just fact. There does seem to have been a lull though when my kids were in school,(mid-20s now)so maybe that's what current rates of use are being compared to...

Obviously doesn't matter, the important thing is to de-criminalize it. Many years ago two of my relatives each spent 3 years of their lives in real prison for distributing small amounts to friends. But it's just fine to give/sell guns to your friends and family members. State and federal lawmakers should be ashamed of this kind of willful blindness and stunning lack of courage.

May. 02 2013 11:24 AM

@ Truth & Beauty from BK - do some research. There is no proof that marijuana affects one's abilities to drive like alcohol does. Look it up. @ Susan from the UWS - you are a good mom, but you are not basing your concerns on any facts. All smoke is carcinogenic. It might help you to know that there has never ever been even one documented case of a marijuana smoker getting cancer from smoking marijuana. Look it up. Fact. No reason to fear marijuana. I sell alcohol for a living, and I am a daily marijuana smoker. That puts me in a position to be around people who's lives involve alcohol and marijuana every day. I can tell you very solidly that those who smoke marijuana are the ones who's lives are most together, who are extremely smart, ambitious, successful business people. Those who drink all the time, well, they are not. I can see it with my own eyes. If alcohol is legal, so must marijuana be legal.

May. 02 2013 11:16 AM

The guest sounds more like a scold than an expert. I know college educated professionals who are 40 to 60 and who smoke pot regularly. I don't think anyone has a problem with the scary stronger marijuana of today. The same people are likely to know the difference between 16 ounces of beer and 16 ounces of Jack Daniels.

About the lady who was apparently terrorized by her middle aged pot smoking neighbors: I had a similar situation with obnoxious neighbors who flew into a screaming frenzy at any attempt to discuss their intrusion on neighbors. They didn't smoke pot, but they drank a lot of vodka. Trust me, a little odor would be a lot better than if they played music and movies on a loud sound system whenever they wanted.

It's about manners, not marijuana or alcohol. A polite pot smoker in an apartment building can blow the smoke out the window or smoke in the bathroom or kitchen with an exhaust fan. In the case of noise, the police advised me to speak with the landlord first.

She also might check for air circulation between apartments. It's a bit difficult to imagine the smell actually permeating walls and floors - in an apartment building typically it would only be leaking out the door into the hallway, and depending on wind direction there can be an air flow leaking around the front door into the hallway. There is typically no air circulation between apartments.

May. 02 2013 11:15 AM

Marajuana is not bad for your health. It is,the least toxic substance on earth other than water. Now researchers say it cure hiv aids as well as cancer.20 other diseases

May. 02 2013 11:10 AM

Anonymous, a half a glass really. Come come now!

Dboy, Are u talking about the deaths caused by the state or the lives wasted in prisons?
Mexico is burning not from my smoke but only because of prohibition

May. 02 2013 11:06 AM
Susan from Upper West Side

No one is talking about the one risk I have warned my teenage son about -- cancer. Apparently pot is more carcinogenic than regular cigarettes. How ironic that we have increasing restrictions on cigarettes and programs to keep kids from smoking them and in the elite private schools they are all smoking pot. Could never stand the smell of either cigarettes or pot. In fact, the illegal day care center that was in the apartment couldn't hide the fact that they were smoking pot because the smell is so strong.

May. 02 2013 11:04 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Jessy: I sure as hell hope you don't have a driver's license!

May. 02 2013 11:03 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Given the degree of chemical alteration, legalized weed will require "weed proof" on the label. We may even need to legally designate what actually is and is not weed.

May. 02 2013 11:02 AM
jessy from nyc

I've been smoking since I was 13, I'm 54 now, I smoke pot every day. I'm not terribly ambitious its true, but I have a job, I support myself, I have good relationships, I watch TV but I also read, play scrabble, act and write (not enough, but I believe some non-pot smoking writers have the same problem). I smoke little bits through the day, so I'm kind of always a little bit high. I like it. I think people have different reactions to the drug, and it's just not for everybody. But boy, is it for me!

May. 02 2013 11:00 AM
John A

The real zombie apocalypse.

May. 02 2013 10:59 AM
Amon from Brooklyn

I don't feel like this conversation is very focused on the demographics..I'd hear about some actual data. In my "educated" opinion we are missing the mark.

yes. I'm educated, a parent and FOR legalization

May. 02 2013 10:58 AM
Rosie NYC from NYC

When are we going to stop the hypocrisy? Alcohol and tobacco are more lethal and more addictive but legal? I guess what makes pot "bad" is lack of lobbyists and companies raking up the big money behind them writing checks.

May. 02 2013 10:58 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I was in high school in the '60s. I didn't smoke pot, but I was in favor of legalization. When my history class had an informal debate on legalizing marijuana, I volunteered for the "pro" team. While we were planning our arguments, someone mentioned that if it were legalized, it would also be regulated, like tobacco, & a boy on the team said, "Can you imagine a filter joint?"

May. 02 2013 10:58 AM
Janine from Manhattan

Diesel, as I recall, has always been the name for Angel's Dust. Added to the grass with a diesel odor. Very different.

I think it's less dangerous than alcohol, for the record.

May. 02 2013 10:54 AM

What is the ecological risk of high-tech growing methods?

What happened to pots greener aspects? It used to be considered a weed, needing no more care than a little fertilizer, water and sunshine. Now high-tech pot growing seems to create A LOT of toxic waste.

May. 02 2013 10:54 AM
steve from Upper west side

So Mr. Kleiman doesn't trust us 60's and 70's youths, now bonafide olde fartes, to handle the stronger more potent varieties of today... Are we talking about pot or garlic?

May. 02 2013 10:53 AM
Anonymous from Unknown

Come on people. It's just pot.

Anyone who knows anything about pot and has smoked a lot knows that 1) tons of professional people do it and don't admit it; and 2) it affects you no more than a half glass of wine would.

It continues to be taboo for a couple of reasons. One is that it's political: the government doesn't want people questioning authority. It's absolutely ridiculous that normal professional people cannot get hired if they have any THC in their system.

What if the pharmaceutical drug users and drinkers couldn't pass a urine test if they took a pill or a drink within the past *month*?

May. 02 2013 10:53 AM
John A

Just tuning in, but didn't he say last time that the component THC, the focus of the most cultivation effort, was actually paranoia producing?

May. 02 2013 10:52 AM
Smoker from USA

Have smoked since I was 20. Still do at 64. Half of my friends smoke high resin varieties also. We are all successful professionals. If it has reduced my IQ and ambition, no one has noticed, including me.

May. 02 2013 10:51 AM

I don't care if you smoke pot or do any other drug. I think it should all be legal.

However, as a currently illegal drug, you need to realize that you're participating in the illicit drug trade. This includes the activity of murder.

May. 02 2013 10:50 AM
chris from new york

also people who are higher end of income and education level are less likely to ADMIT to their usage. hello??? self reported behavior always questionable.

even college students, who have high school degrees, are more likely to lie about this than h.s. drop outs.

May. 02 2013 10:49 AM
jvanscha from Mexico City

As a high school teacher, at high-end schools, each year I get essays from students who find marajuana use as evil....they feel neglected by parents who get high in the evenings. This is an important consideration - even if the students also smoke, they lack parenting at a critical time of their lives.

May. 02 2013 10:49 AM

Mark sounds like he's taking a toke right now!

May. 02 2013 10:48 AM
Tiffany from Long Island City

My husband drinks in front of our kids but I smoke pot after the kids have gone to bed (they are 8 and 11). Even if it was legal I'm not sure if I would do it in front of my kids. By the way I work full time, have a masters degree and smoke pot pretty much daily.

May. 02 2013 10:48 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Everyone I know who smokes weed is college, law and/or med school-educated, or at least middle to upper class and of above average intelligence. Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it, mister.

May. 02 2013 10:48 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Marijuana, tobacco and alcohol should be sold, regulated and taxed via special shops as is presently the case with liquor.

May. 02 2013 10:48 AM
meesh ess from queens

pot is NOT a gateway drug. LEGAL DRUGS like alcohol and cigarettes are the gateway drugs.

May. 02 2013 10:44 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

De-criminalizing and legalizing drugs, are two different things. I prefer the former.

May. 02 2013 10:29 AM

I'm one of the few people that I know who doesn't smoke...A lot of people do, and who cares why? I drink. Wanna know why? I didn't think so.

May. 02 2013 10:08 AM
john from office

As a former smoker, I have bad news. Pot makes you stupid, lazy and kills ambition. If you are a trust fund baby, upper middle class kid, you can afford to waste your time. Blacks and hispanics or anyone in the lower classes are wasting their time and lowering their IQs at the same time. Dont do it.

May. 02 2013 10:07 AM

Unless he is driving a car or watching your children why is it anyone’s business??

May. 02 2013 09:33 AM
Kevin Lahoda

Looking forward to the pot-cast.

May. 02 2013 08:25 AM

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