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Latest Pew Research Shows How Prevalent Pot Has Become

I am old enough to remember when people used to talk about marijuana behind closed doors. My high school had its fair share of students known to use marijuana even though none of us actually saw them doing it. That is the way it was back then. My, how things have changed. These days, pot is everywhere. That’s largely due to a change in public opinion.

Every year, the good folks over at Pew look into public perceptions related to medical and recreational marijuana. This year’s research pretty much seals the deal: pot is now so prevalent in the U.S. that few people remain totally unaffected by it.

Most of Us Live Near a Dispensary

Reading the most recent Pew research, I wasn’t surprised by most of the data offered. What did surprise me was a finding that 79% of all American adults “live in a county with at least one cannabis dispensary.” That genuinely surprises me.

My personal experience aligns with the finding. There are several dispensaries located within 20 minutes of my home. But then I think of a state like Utah, a largely rural state that allows medical cannabis only. According to the operators of, there are only fifteen dispensaries serving the entire state.

Utah has a very low concentration of dispensaries in relation to its size and population. On the other hand, Oklahoma has so many dispensaries that market saturation is starting to force the weaker competitors out of business. There are literally thousands of dispensaries in the Sooner State.

Most of Us Approve of Cannabis

In terms of how many Americans approve of cannabis in some form, the numbers are not so surprising. Pew researchers say that roughly 88% approve of legal cannabis in either medical or recreational form. Here are the raw numbers:

  • Medical use only – 32%
  • Medical and recreational – 57%
  • Neither medical nor recreational – 11%

Although these particular numbers have remained steady for the last five years or so, there has been a significant increase in the number of people who approve of marijuana consumption over the last two decades. That is not surprising, given how effective pro-cannabis lobbyists have been in convincing both citizens and lawmakers to approve medical cannabis.

A Foot in the Door

When California led the way in promoting medical cannabis back in the 1990s, the argument in favor was all about compassion. Medical cannabis was about helping patients who had no viable treatments for conditions like epilepsy and glaucoma. However, it now appears that promoting medical cannabis was just a way to get a foot in the door.

In my own state of Florida, voters approved medical cannabis a couple of years ago. Yet it was clear that recreational consumption was the ultimate goal. On election night, even before polls had officially closed, pro-cannabis activists knew they were going to win. They stated during interviews that they would begin working on a recreational marijuana amendment right away.

I am among the 32% who favor medical cannabis. As someone who lives with a chronic health condition for which Western medicine has proved insufficient, alternative therapies are attractive to me. But despite my support for medical cannabis (I don’t use it myself) I am not in favor of recreational consumption. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve already got enough problems with alcohol.

Nonetheless, the latest research shows overwhelming support for marijuana among Americans. Whether it is medical, recreational, or both, marijuana consumption has become mainstream. The vast majority of people support it. Lawmakers are running out of ways to stop it. That is where we are in 2024.

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