Marijuana Use at All Time High among Young Adults in 2021

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Marijuana use increased to a historic high in 2021 among young adults aged 19 to 30 years old. The Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel study found a 13.2% increase in marijuana use between 2011 and 2021, with 43% of young adults stating they used marijuana in the past year, compared to 29% in 2011. [1] [2]

The increase in use comes amid states legalizing recreational and medical marijuana. An Aug. 24, 2022 study found about a 20% increase in marijuana use after legalization. 19 states and DC have legalized recreational marijuana, including eight states since 2020. [3]

Vaping use also increased to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, continuing an upward trend. 6% of young adults said they vaped in 2017, when the survey first asked about vaping. In 2021, 16% of young adults stated they vaped. [1] [2]

While alcohol use remained the most-used drug among young adults, overall alcohol use was on the downswing: from 70% in 2016 (69% in 2011) to 66% in 2021. Cigarette use was also down, continuing a downward trend begun in 2004, with 9% of young adults reporting cigarette use in the past 30 days in 2021, compared with 21.2% in 2011. [1] [2]

An Aug. 26, 2022, Gallup poll found similar trends in use among adults in general. 45% of adults said they’d had an alcoholic drink in the past week, 16% stated they currently smoke marijuana, and only 11% report being current cigarette smokers. [4]

Meanwhile, most Americans were in favor of stricter vaping regulations (61%) and most supported reductions in nicotine in cigarettes to make them less addictive (73%). [5]

Discussion Questions

1. Should recreational marijuana be legal? Why or why not?

2. Should stricter regulations be enacted on vaping? If yes, what sort of regulations and why? If no, why not?

3. Should the minimum legal drinking age be lowered? Why or why not?


1. Megan E. Patrick, et al., “Monitoring the Future Panel Study Annual Report,”, 2022

2. National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Marijuana and Hallucinogen Use among Young Adults Reached All Time-High in 2021,”, Aug. 22, 2022

3. Stephanie M. Zellers, et al., “Impacts of Recreational Cannabis Legalization on Cannabis Use: A Longitudinal Discordant Twin Study,”, Aug. 24,2022

4. Frank Newport, “Americans and the Future of Cigarettes, Marijuana, Alcohol,”, Aug. 26, 2022

5. Lydia Saad, “Americans Want Stricter Vaping Regulations, Mixed on Tobacco,”, Aug. 12, 2022