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Cannabis Facts and Stats

At a glance

A variety of information sources are available to monitor the prevalence and trends of cannabis use in the United States. The resources below cover cannabis-related issues, including data around use, emergency department visits, substance use and misuse, policy measures, and other related tools.

Fast facts

  • Cannabis is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States; 52.5 million people, or about 19% of Americans, used it at least once in 2021.1
  • Recent research estimated that approximately 3 in 10 people who use cannabis have cannabis use disorder.2
  • The risk of developing cannabis use disorder is even greater for people who begin to use it before age 18.3
  • Cannabis use directly affects the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision-making, coordination, emotion, and reaction time.45
  • Infants, children, and teens (who still have developing brains) are especially susceptible to the adverse effects of cannabis.45
  • Long-term or frequent cannabis use has been linked to increased risk of psychosis or schizophrenia in some users.6
  • Using cannabis during pregnancy may increase the person's risk for pregnancy complications. Pregnant and breastfeeding persons should avoid cannabis.7


National Surveys That Collect Information About Cannabis Use

CDC Sponsored Surveys

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

World's largest, continuously conducted telephone survey that tracks health behaviors, chronic diseases, and preventive health practices among noninstitutionalized adults in the United States.

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)

Monitors six categories of priority health risk behaviors, including cannabis use, among high school youth at national, state, and local levels.

Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS)

Collects state-specific, population-based data on cannabis use before, during, and shortly after pregnancy.

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

Assesses the health and nutritional status of adults and children, aged 12 years and older, in the United States. The survey is unique in that it combines interviews and physical examinations. Voluntary drug use questions ask lifetime cannabis use, age of first use, age when starting to use cannabis regularly, amount used, frequency of use, and time since last use. These data are available from 2005-2007 survey period onward.

Other National Surveys

National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

Ongoing and long-term system, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) NSDUH is the primary source of information on the prevalence, patterns, and consequences of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use and abuse in the general U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population, ages 12 and older.

Monitoring the Future Survey

Ongoing and long-term system, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) that collects data on the behaviors, attitudes, and values regarding substance use of American teens, college students, and adults. Each year a total of approximately 50,000 students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades are surveyed about substance use, including cannabis, and a subset are sent follow-up questionnaires through age 45 years.

National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS)

NDEWS monitors drug use trends in 12 sentinel communities across the United States. Sentinel Site profiles describing drug abuse trends and emerging issues are available on NDEWS website.

National Programs That Collect Information About Cannabis Policies

Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS)

A policy monitoring system sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) that provides detailed information on a wide variety of alcohol-related policies in the United States at both state and federal levels. The system was expanded in 2016 to include policies related to legalizing the cultivation, sale, or use of cannabis for prohibitions and restrictions on such practices.

State Cannabis Policy Enactment Database

A policy monitoring system sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures that provides up-to-date information on cannabis legislation that has been enacted in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and its territories. The database is sortable by state, topic, keyword, and primary sponsor.

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP22-07-01-005, NSDUH Series H-57). Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2022. Accessed on February 9, 2024.
  2. Hasin DS, Saha TD, Kerridge BT, et al. Prevalence of marijuana use disorders in the United States between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015 Dec;72(12):1235-1242. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1858.
  3. Winters KC, Lee C-YS. Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: Association with recent use and age. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;92(1-3):239-247. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.08.005.
  4. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: the current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2017. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  5. Giedd JN. The teen brain: Insights from neuroimaging. J Adolesc Health. 2008;42(4):335–343. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.01.007.
  6. Volkow ND, Swanson JM, Evins AE, et al. Effects of cannabis use on human behavior, including cognition, motivation, and psychosis: A review. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Mar;73(3):292-297. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.3278.
  7. Ryan SA, Ammerman SD, O’Connor ME, et al. Marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding: Implications for neonatal and childhood outcomes. Pediatrics. 2018;142(3):e20181889. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-1889.