Smoke Jumping

Pamela Paul


According to an October 2002 Time/CNN poll, nearly half of Americans (47 percent) have smoked pot at least once. Gallup polls indicate that a greater share of people have sampled the drug over the last 30 years or so, but not to the level reflected in the Time/CNN survey. According to Gallup data gathered in 1999, 34 percent of Americans admitted trying marijuana, up from 11 percent in 1972 and 4 percent in 1969. (Perhaps to elicit honest responses, those polled were reminded that all of their answers were confidential.) Furthermore, phrasing the question in the following way, “Have you, yourself, ever happened to try marijuana?” seemed to imply that usage could have been inadvertent or that the smoker was somehow not responsible for his or her action.

Men are more likely than women to have indulged (43 percent compared with 27 percent), and whites are more likely than blacks to say they’ve tried pot (35 percent of whites versus 25 percent of nonwhites). Interestingly, there is little difference in usage among those under the age of 50. Nearly the same proportion of 18- to 29-year-olds and 30- to 49-year-olds say they’ve tried the drug (46 percent and 45 percent, respectively), though the number dips considerably for older Americans (14 percent of those over 50). Nor is there much difference in usage among city dwellers (38 percent), suburbanites (31 percent) and rural residents (34 percent). Republicans and Democrats have also smoked pot in similar proportions (33 percent versus 31 percent). At the same time, teen usage is dropping: In 1999, 20 percent of teenagers said in a Gallup Youth Survey that they had tried marijuana, down from 38 percent in 1981. 38 percent in 1981.


Seniors are almost twice as likely to think so as twentysomethings.


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