Majority of Americans Reside in States with Legal Cannabis, Pew Research Center Reveals

According to a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center, a significant majority of Americans now live in states where cannabis is legalized for either medical or recreational purposes. Additionally, nearly 80% of the U.S. population has access to at least one cannabis dispensary in their county.

Caleb Keller, a communications assistant at the Pew Research Center, shared insights with High Times, stating, “Our analysis indicates that 74% of Americans reside in states where marijuana is legal for recreational or medical use.”

The Pew Research Center’s report further highlights that approximately three-quarters of all dispensaries in the country are located in states that have legalized recreational cannabis, with an additional 23% operating in medical cannabis-only states. Notably, states such as Oklahoma and Florida, which permit medical cannabis only, rank among the top five states with the highest number of dispensaries.

Moreover, the analysis reveals that nearly 80% of Americans live in counties with at least one cannabis dispensary. Even in regions where cannabis is not legally permitted, dispensaries near state borders thrive, often catering to individuals from neighboring states with more lenient cannabis laws.

The shift towards cannabis legalization traces back to California’s approval of Prop. 215 in 1996, marking the onset of state-level cannabis legislation. California currently hosts a quarter of all dispensaries in the U.S., with the number of medical cannabis markets expanding to 38 and beyond.

Key findings from the Pew Research analysis include:

  • 54% of Americans reside in states where recreational cannabis is legal, a notable increase since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational cannabis about twelve years ago.
  • 74% of Americans live in states where cannabis is legal for either recreational or medical use, with California pioneering medical cannabis legalization in 1996.
  • 79% of Americans live in counties with at least one cannabis dispensary.
  • The U.S. is home to nearly 15,000 cannabis dispensaries, concentrated predominantly on the West Coast and Northeast, but also prevalent in interior states like Michigan, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
  • California leads in the number of dispensaries, with 3,659 establishments, accounting for a quarter of all dispensaries nationwide.
  • Oklahoma boasts the highest number of cannabis dispensaries per capita, with 36 dispensaries for every 100,000 residents.

Data collection for the analysis involved sourcing updated cannabis laws from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), current as of February 2024. Population estimates were derived from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, while information regarding cannabis dispensaries was obtained from SafeGraph, a platform aggregating data on places of interest globally.

The analysis also debunked the notion that dispensaries thrive solely in low-income areas, revealing varying median household incomes in regions with high concentrations of dispensaries across different states.

Overall, the findings underscore the widespread adoption of state cannabis laws since the inception of medical cannabis legalization in 1996, shaping the landscape of cannabis accessibility across the United States.


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