Marijuana: 15 Cities With the Most Pot Users
With all the talk of marijuana legalization in the United States, it can sometimes seem like marijuana use is rampant across the country. It’s true that more states than ever now offer legalized recreational pot, but there are also a handful of states where it seems unlikely that they’ll ever pass a law to allow marijuana — whether it’s for recreational or medicinal purposes.
According to Gallup polls, the number of American adults who smoke marijuana has been increasing over the past three years, from 7% in 2013 to 13% in 2016. It’s hard to tell whether that number is increasing because more adults are actually smoking weed, or if people are more willing to admit they use marijuana as the stigma for doing so fades. Overall, 43% of Americans admit to having tried cannabis at some point in their lives.
Still, some cities and states have more pot users than others. It goes without saying that states that have legalized recreational cannabis tend to have higher concentrations of people who use the drug, but even those states have hot spots with a higher percentage of users.
Marijuana use nationwide: City and regional hotspots
To get an idea of which cities and regions in the United States have the most marijuana users, we took a look at data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA. The organization gathered data from 204,000 people ages 12 and older from 2012 to 2014 across the nation, asking them about a variety of behaviors including marijuana use. SAMHSA then outlined the regions in each state where pot use was the highest, based on people who said they had used cannabis in the previous month. Though some of those regions are reported as regions in the state, we took a look at the largest cities in those areas to determine the locations where marijuana use is the highest in the nation.
Nationwide, an average of 7.73% of people ages 12 and older had admitted to using marijuana in some form in the previous month. In each of these top cities, that percentage is well above that benchmark, and in several cases is more than double the national average. Keep in mind that SAMHSA’s report deals with percentages, meaning that a smaller city could make this list if a greater ratio of marijuana users live there. However, some of the cities on the list have a high percentage paired with a large population, meaning the use of marijuana in those locations is truly significant.
15. Boston, Massachusetts
Percentage of marijuana users: 13.12%
Massachusetts is one of the 27 states (along with Washington, D.C.) that permit medical marijuana in at least some circumstances, which could be part of the reason Boston’s percentage of marijuana use is one of the highest in the country. The city’s notoriously large college student population could also be a factor here, as millennials are much more likely to support marijuana use than other generations. (The Pew Research Center reports a 68% approval rate for younger people, versus 52 and 50% of people in the Baby Boomer and Gen X age groups.)
14. Bangor, Maine
Percentage of marijuana users: 13.25%
The central census region of Maine, known as Penquis, is home to the 14th-largest rate of marijuana use in the nation. Though the two Penobscot and Piscataquis counties in the region contain several cities, Bangor is likely the most recognized city among them.
13. Portland, Oregon
Percentage of marijuana users: 13.32%
Roughly 13.32% of residents in Multnomah County, Oregon use marijuana. Portland is the county’s largest population center, and its high rate of marijuana use keeps up appearances with the city’s decidedly progressive and young tendencies.
12. Fort Collins, Colorado
Percentage of marijuana users: 13.33%
In what should be a surprise to no one, Colorado reports the highest rate of marijuana use in the nation. The state’s recreational marijuana laws make the drug easy to access and less stigmatized, and marijuana use is widespread across the state. Statewide, about 14.01% of people report using marijuana, almost double that of the national average. Of Colorado’s five regional zones for the report, three of them are in the top 15 in the nation. Region 3, located in the center of state, has the lowest rate at 11.73% — which still beats many regions in the nation.
Colorado’s Region 1 lands at the No. 12 spot in the country. The cities include places like Yuma and other rural areas in the Northeast part of Colorado, but also include Fort Collins, one of the largest cities in the state and the home to Colorado State University.
11. Burlington, Vermont
Percentage of marijuana users: 13.87%
Bernie Sanders’s recent presidential bid cemented the view that Vermont is a pot-friendly state, and the four census regions in the state all report high rates of marijuana use. The Champlain Valley region, which includes Burlington (and the University of Vermont) reports a higher rate of cannabis use than many cities in the nation.
10. Washington, D.C.
Percentage of marijuana users: 13.91%
Many of the residents in the nation’s capitol report using weed in some form. Ward 2 in particular — which includes the area where the White House is located — reports a rate of 13.91%, cracking the Top 10 regions in the nation for marijuana use.
9. Redding, California
Percentage of marijuana users: 13.97%
The entire northern section of California is grouped together in the SAMSHA report, which includes cities like Redding and Eureka, among others in a more rural area of an otherwise heavily populated state. Lower populations of people overall in the northern region could contribute to the higher percentage of usage, especially considering California’s longtime friendly attitude toward medical marijuana.
8. Warwick and East Greenwich, Rhode Island
Percentage of marijuana users: 14.23%
Despite its small size, Rhode Island boasts a hugely accepting attitude toward cannabis in general. Of its four regions in the SAMHSA report, three of them make this list — all of which are in the top 10. The entirety of Kent County comprises the No. 8 spot, with the city of Warwick likely the largest in the region. The coastal city of East Greenwich, the traditional county seat, also helps to add to those numbers. The region also marks the first in our list to have a rate of marijuana use higher than 14%.
7. Seattle, Washington
Percentage of marijuana users: 14.31%
Washington is one of eight states to have approved recreational pot in recent history, understandably increasing the number of marijuana users in the state (or at least increasing the chances that people will admit to it). King County, with the seventh-highest rate of cannabis use in the nation, includes Seattle, but also other large cities like Bellevue, Renton, Kent, and Redmond.
6. Newport and Bristol, Rhode Island
Percentage of marijuana users: 14.45%
Though it’s not necessarily scientific, part of the reason for Rhode Island’s high rates of cannabis use could be the fact that it’s relatively small, but highly influenced by the number of college students that come into the state from all over the nation. According to one report, the state attracts and enrolls 142% more students than it produces — meaning the state’s younger population grows significantly for nine months every year.
Of those regions, the combined areas of Bristol and Newport (along with surrounding cities) take the No. 6 spot.
5. Denver and Boulder, Colorado
Percentage of marijuana users: 14.8%
The SAMHSA report groups a few large cities together in its report, and the Colorado cities of Denver and Boulder are counted together for a total rate of cannabis use at 14.8%. The large cities are home to a number of universities, but also are some of the most concentrated areas for medical and recreational dispensaries in the state.
4. Aspen, Durango, Grand Junction, and Telluride, Colorado
Percentage of marijuana users: 14.84%
The entire western half of Colorado is grouped together in the report, comprising of many cities in and around the Rockies and more rural parts of the state. The region includes 21 counties, obviously comprising of too many cities to name. However, the ones listed above represent some of the more populous and recognizable in the area, which also have a collective high rate of pot use.
3. Charleston, Narragansett, and South Kingston, Rhode Island
Percentage of marijuana users: 14.85%
Washington County is the southernmost region in the nation’s smallest state, but boasts one of the highest rates of weed users in the country. Historic towns like Charleston and Narragansett are part of this, along with South Kingston, which is home to the University of Rhode Island.
2. Denali, Fairbanks, and Nome, Alaska
Percentage of marijuana users: 14.93%
Alaska boasts a higher-than-normal rate of cannabis use overall, likely in part because of its pot-friendly legislation but also because of its remote nature. It doesn’t get more remote than the northern region of Alaska, which has the second-highest percentage of pot users in the nation. Small populations in many cities within the census region mean that it doesn’t take many cannabis enthusiasts to bloat the rate of marijuana use. Nonetheless, you’re likely to find a higher percentage of pot users among the people you do meet in this part of the country.
1. San Francisco, California
Percentage of marijuana users: 15.46%
Colorado might have the highest percentage of pot users on a statewide basis, but California has the highest rate when it comes to sheer numbers. According to 24/7 Wall St., the state boasts more than 4.6 million cannabis users, the highest number of any state in the nation. The state does have some of the largest variations in pot use by region, but San Francisco’s place at the No. 1 spot is truly impressive. Not only is the percentage the highest in the country — and beats out the No. 2 spot by almost a whole percentage point — but its population makes that an especially impressive feat.
San Francisco is in the Top 15 largest U.S. cities by population, with more than 805,000 residents. To get the highest percentage of pot use, it means that the weed culture must be especially pervasive throughout the city. To put that rate in perspective, an estimated 124,500 people are frequently using pot at any given time within the city limits.
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