marijuana weed joint
© ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
An activist smokes marijuana during the annual NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally in support of the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical use, on May 1, 2021 in New York City.
A majority of people say they smoke marijuana more than cigarettes, based on data from a new Gallup poll.

Sixteen percent of Americans say they currently smoke marijuana with 48% of respondents sharing that they have tried it at some point in their life — the highest rate ever recorded by Gallup. Last year, 12% of respondents said they used marijuana.

The poll released on Aug. 16 was part of a study that examined people's attitudes regarding marijuana's benefits to society.

Gallup's poll finds that marijuana use was higher among adults between the ages of 18 and 34 with 30% responding that they smoke pot and 22% consume marijuana edibles. These numbers are significantly lower in both categories for adults 35 to 54 years old (16%) and Americans 55 and older (7%).

The analytics and research company conducted a related poll on Aug. 26 that collected responses for a survey discussing alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use among Americans.

A new record low of 11% of adults reported smoking cigarettes with approximately three in 10 nonsmokers stating they used to smoke, a steep drop in cigarette use compared to 45% in the 1950s.

In 2019, Gallup conducted a poll that found 83% of people believed smoking is "very harmful" compared to 14% who responded that it's "somewhat harmful." More than nine in 10 adults agreed smoking caused cancer. Approximately 91% of smokers interviewed by Gallup in 2015 said they wished they never started smoking.

With marijuana use higher among most Americans, the poll reveals that Americans are divided in their views on marijuana, but support for legalization is still large.

Gallup held phone interviews with 1,013 people 18 or older in all 50 states and Washington, DC. When asked what effect they thought marijuana had on society, 49% of respondents said it was positive, while 50% said cannabis has negatively impacted society.

However, 68% of adults think marijuana should be legal, Gallup shared. Most adults who have ever tried marijuana believe its effects on users and society as a whole are positive. The survey revealed that 72% of people who have never tried marijuana think it's bad for society.

Senate bill would decriminalize marijuana

In July, three prominent Senate Democrats introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, despite slim chances that the bill will pass.

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sens. Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, would remove marijuana from the list of federal controlled substances, but it could still be outlawed at the state level.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 19 states, Washington, D.C, and Guam, while 37 states allow some form of medical marijuana. Six states could vote on ballot measures legalizing marijuana in the November midterm elections, and should they pass, will join those 19 states.

House passes bill to legalize marijuana known as MORE Act

On April 1, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass legislation to legalize marijuana at the federal level, one step closer to decriminalizing cannabis in the United States.

Though 18 states have legalized recreational use and 37 allow for some sort of medical marijuana, the remaining federal prohibition has created headaches for the industry in states where it is legal — making it hard for businesses to get banking services and loans.

Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, is expected to face strong headwinds in the Senate — its debate and vote in April gave House lawmakers the chance to state their views on a decriminalization push.

The MORE Act would essentially remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act list and decriminalize it. The measure would require federal courts to expunge prior marijuana convictions and conduct resentencing hearings for those completing their sentences.

The bill passed with a mostly party-line vote of 220-204. All but two voting Democrats backed the measure, while only three Republicans did. It still needs approval in the Senate before it could head to President Joe Biden's desk to be signed into law.