Canada, Uruguay, and 19 states in the USA - have already embraced recreational cannabis, and now Malta, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Mexico, South Africa and even Thailand are refining their regulated adult-use cannabis frameworks. There is an estimated 480,262,003 people live in jurisdictions where cannabis has been legalised for recreational consumption, making up around 6.09% of the world’s population, but how many consume cannabis?
First, let’s look at the 19 recreational states in the US. The percentage of recreational cannabis consumers ranges from New York’s 18.56% (the most recent state to “go legal”) all the way to Vermont’s 30.15%. This means across all recreational states, a total of 28,983,787 people consumed cannabis in the last twelve months, which equates to 21.69% of the population across all recreational states. This does not include the remaining 31 states, some of which have medical cannabis programmes where significant amounts of their population consume cannabis on a regular basis.
Moving north, Canada legalised cannabis in October 2018 and is the largest country to legalise cannabis to date. The Canadian Government’s Canadian Cannabis Survey 2021 reported that they found that 17% of Canadians over the age of 16 had consumed cannabis in the last 30 days. That makes for 6,461,700 Canadians consuming cannabis over the course of a month, and this number is still growing as more of the population get better access either through the opening of more dispensaries or the increasing range of online services.
Looking at the data for these legal markets we find that the average percentage of a population that consumes cannabis in a regulated market is 22.8% (to put that into perspective only 22% of the UK population have brown eyes). So what could recreational cannabis look like this side of the Atlantic as countries across Europe start to change regulations around this plant?
Close to our home in the Channel Islands, there is a population of 171,248 spread over the islands making up Guernsey and Jersey’s Bailiwicks, meaning that, if cannabis were to be legalised across the Channel Islands, there would be nearly 38,000 consumers for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
But let’s look at the UK with 67.22 million residents spread across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. With a thriving underground cannabis scene currently, it’s easy to see that an adult use market could rapidly reach more than 14,700,000 people who would use cannabis on a regular basis.
Across the Channel, Germany is already Europe’s largest medical cannabis market and now their Health Minister has committed to bringing in cannabis reform and creating a regulated adult use market. At 83.24 million, their population would constitute an estimated market size of 18,312,800 cannabis consumers.
The data from these legal markets just goes to show that, what is consistently characterised by politicians and law enforcement agencies as a “vocal minority” is, in fact, far from a minority. Established jurisdictions can have in excess of a quarter of their population being cannabis consumers, ranging from those reaching adulthood and choosing cannabis over alcohol, to grandparents looking to ease pain and discomfort as well as people of all ages looking for an effective alternative to harmful medicines such as opioids.
The chances are that a member of your family, a friend, a work college, or just someone you have interacted with recently is a cannabis user, and you never even knew.