Life in legal states header

Key Takeaways

  • 35% of respondents said the legalization of marijuana led them to move to the state in which they currently reside.

  • 45% of residents in non-legalized states worry about teen use as a side effect of legalizing marijuana, while only 38% of residents in legalized states feel it's an issue.

  • Those in legalized states report better levels of mental and physical health than their non-legalized counterparts. Residents in legalized states are also happier with their state as a place to live, overall.

The Weed Legalization Landscape of America

Being the most commonly used recreational drug in the U.S. with over 22 million users on a monthly basis, marijuana has become quite the hot topic recently. We surveyed 1,000 people to learn more about their stance on marijuana and their general experiences with the drug. For example, what do respondents believe are the benefits and downsides of legalization? How does the quality of life of people living in legalized versus non-legalized states compare?

Regarding personal experiences, what are some of the preferred snacks that people like to eat when high, and what are some of their most popular post-smoking activities? Read on to learn more about all things marijuana in the U.S.

Learning About Legalization

In states where marijuana is currently recreationally legal, 35% of respondents said that the drug's legal status was a key motivation for them to take up residence there. Otherwise, 38% of them were already living there when weed was legalized, and just over a quarter moved there for unrelated reasons. Over a third of respondents would not consider moving to a state where marijuana is illegal; afterall, 80% of them had voted in favor of legalizing cannabis. Seeing as Americans shelled out north of $18 billion on cannabis products in the last calendar year, a full $7.6 billion more than the previous one, support for weed is clearly on the rise.

Legalized states sentiment toward marijuana legalization

Legalization comes with its social upsides too, the most promising of which is economic growth. In Colorado in 2019, total cannabis sales amounted to over $1.7 billion, resulting in more than $302 million in taxes collected by the government. Other benefits include increasing marijuana usage for medical purposes, reducing black market transactions, freeing prisoners who were locked up on weed-related charges, and generally expanding individual rights and freedoms.

On the other hand, legalization comes with potential complications. Over half of respondents in legal states worry about the potential uptick in people driving under the influence, and 43% are worried about cannabis accidentally falling into the hands of children or being consumed by pets. Nearly 40% thought legalization could also lead to increased use among teens and greater drug use in general. Even after participating in the vote for marijuana legalization, the majority of respondents hadn't necessarily become more involved in community politics.

The Votes Are In

Well over half of respondents in non-legalized states had no issue moving to a state where marijuana was legal, but over a quarter said they would be unlikely to do so. Regarding their voting stance, 29% voted for the legalization of medical marijuana only, whereas 22% vouched for recreational use as well. Seventeen percent decided not to vote for the legalization of marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes.

Non-legalized states sentiment toward marijuana legalization

People in states where weed is currently illegal agreed with the aforementioned benefits of legalizing cannabis, especially in regards to the economy. Half were also on board with marijuana use for medical patients, and they have good reason to be – the drug has been proven to relieve chronic pain, regulate and prevent diabetes, fight cancer, and deal with anxiety among a long list of other health-related benefits.

That being said, respondents were also wary of the potential downsides of marijuana legalization in their states. More people driving under the influence, increased teen cannabis use, and a higher chance of accidental kid and/or pet exposure were the top three concerns that our survey-takers had.

Livin' the Good Life

When comparing the quality of life of people living in legalized versus non-legalized states, the former were slightly more satisfied with theirs. The same held true when respondents were asked about both their physical and mental health. This makes sense on the physical front, since consuming cannabis can reduce inflammation and improve pain management as a whole. In terms of mental benefits, marijuana can help treat a variety of neurological diseases and improve sleep.

Percentages of satisfaction levels of legal and non-legal states

However, when asked how they felt about their relationship with their community, it was citizens living in non-legalized states that were more satisfied. Regardless, people living in legalized states seem to be more pleased with their quality of life overall.

The Experience

Smoking weed and then wanting to grab a snack is a well-documented side effect of using marijuana, but why? Well, there are a couple of possible explanations for it. Firstly, THC (the most psychoactive component of cannabis) interacts with the receptors located in our central nervous system that stimulate appetite. Also, weed has the ability to release a hormone called ghrelin, which our stomach secretes to signal to our brains that we are hungry.

Experiences being high in legal and non-legal states

In any event, people craved pizza the most after getting high – and in general, sweet and savory treats were the most preferred choices. It doesn't look like marijuana consumption led to anyone having a hankering for a healthy snack, and that may be because weed does not only make you hungrier; it also makes food smell better and taste more delicious, naturally guiding us to more enticing flavor profiles. Generally, most respondents preferred American snacks, but didn't shy away from exploring other cuisines, such as Mexican, Chinese, and Italian.

When it comes to leisure activities enjoyed while high, most people liked relaxing, watching television or putting on some music. Specifically, hip-hop and rap were considered to be the best genres of music to listen to while high, and if people were making an excursion for food, dives, diners, and chain restaurants were their preferred choices. On a state-by-state basis, people in legalized states preferred Asian cuisine and frequented bars more often while high, while respondents smoking up in non-legalized states were more likely to listen to heavy metal and country music.

Rolling Right Along

The overwhelming majority of respondents were in favor of marijuana legalization, and some even moved states in order to live in a place where it was already legal. People are pro legalizing weed for reasons beyond personal consumption – for example, the ability of government-regulated dispensaries to encourage economic growth and stimulation through the generation of income and increased tax revenue. Also, with marijuana increasingly considered a viable option for medical patients, many are on board with increasing its usage for that purpose. On the other hand, though, some are worried about an uptick in people driving under the influence, as well as weed getting into the wrong hands.

When comparing life satisfaction levels of people living in legalized versus non-legalized states, the former were happier, overall, particularly with their physical and mental health. With support for weed legalization on the rise, only time will tell how much of America goes green.

Methodology and Limitations

In this study, we surveyed 1,000 people, 497 of which were from legalized states and 503 of which were from non-legalized states. 52% of respondents identified as Democrats, 27% identified as Republicans, 16% as Independents, 3% as Libertarians, and 2% as part of the Green Party.

To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question.

These data rely on self-reporting by the respondents and are only exploratory. Issues with self-reported responses include, but aren't limited to, the following: exaggeration, selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and bias. All values are based on estimation.

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