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Many people use cannabis as a sleep aid, but does it really work? We review the emerging research on cannabis for sleep, including benefits and side effects. From CBD oil tinctures and capsules to bath bombs, we review the best CBD products online to help you relax and sleep quickly and naturally. 12% of adults are smoking weed. This percentage remained relatively unchanged from 2015 to 2021. 52 million Americans will have consumed weed by end of 2022.

Using Cannabis As A Sleep Aid

We regularly assess how the content in this article aligns with current scientific literature and expert recommendations in order to provide the most up-to-date research.

Medical Disclaimer: The content on this page should not be taken as medical advice or used as a recommendation for any specific medication. Always consult your doctor before taking any new medication or changing your current dosage.

Cannabis, also called marijuana, is widely used as a sleep aid, both recreationally and among medical users. Around 70% of young adults that casually use cannabis report that they do so to help them sleep. Among long-term cannabis users (those who have been using it for 10 years or more), about half use cannabis to improve their sleep. Among people who use cannabis for medical reasons, such as pain relief, as many as 85% say it improves their sleep.

Research into cannabis as a sleep aid is still developing. Cannabis may help relieve insomnia when used occasionally, though researchers are unsure whether long-term use is ultimately beneficial or detrimental for sleep quality.

Does Cannabis Help You Sleep?

Cannabis appears to improve sleep in certain cases. For people with certain conditions such as chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and multiple sclerosis, cannabis may help them fall asleep faster, wake up less during the night, and enjoy better sleep quality overall. A recent study also found that cannabis effectively relieves symptoms for people with restless legs syndrome (RLS).

Many people use cannabis to self-treat insomnia, anxiety, and pain. Among these users, the effectiveness of cannabis for sleep is more ambivalent, though a study conducted on individuals with insomnia found that many participants reported relief from their symptoms when using cannabis.

Some studies have found a distinction between daily users and less frequent, non-daily users in how cannabis affects their sleep. Those who use cannabis daily are more likely to report more sleep problems than occasional users or people who do not use cannabis at all. Non-daily users report fewer sleep issues than both daily users and non-users.

How Does Cannabis Work as a Sleep Aid?

It is believed that the sleep-promoting effects of cannabinoids are due to their interactions with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. When cannabinoids bind to these receptors, they send messages to increase levels of sleep-promoting adenosine levels and suppress the brain’s arousal system. Together, these effects may help cannabis users feel sedated or sleepy.

Cannabis has several different active compounds, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC typically acts as a sedative, it can have a stimulating effect for some people, especially for those who are new to using cannabis or taking higher doses. In these cases, using cannabis before bed may result in a longer time falling asleep. CBD appears to promote alertness at lower doses, and sleepiness at higher doses. The effects of the two compounds together may depend on the dose and timing.

Both CBD and THC may also have benefits for chronic conditions that interfere with sleep.

For example, synthetic forms of THC have shown potential for treating obstructive sleep apnea, reducing PTSD-related nightmares, and improving sleep for people living with chronic pain. CBD, on the other hand, may reduce symptoms of REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness.

When using cannabis as a sleep aid, the effects you feel may depend on the type of cannabis you are using. Cannabis has higher concentrations of THC, the primary psychoactive component. Hemp plants have higher levels of CBD.

Does Cannabis Affect Your Sleep Quality?

In addition to helping you fall asleep faster, cannabis may alter your sleep architecture, a term that describes how long you spend in the different sleep stages. Short-term cannabis use appears to increase the time you spend in deep sleep, the stage that helps you wake up feeling refreshed. However, THC decreases the amount of time you spend in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when you spend more time dreaming, processing emotions, and cementing new memories.

Decreasing REM sleep may have some benefits for people with PTSD, since nightmares are a common and disturbing symptom. A study on women with PTSD found that those with more severe PTSD symptoms and poor sleep were more likely to use cannabis to help them cope. One study found that synthetic forms of cannabis significantly decreased nightmares, or stopped them completely, for people with PTSD. Some participants in this study also reported experiencing better overall sleep quality and fewer daytime flashbacks.

How Is Cannabis Different from Other Natural Sleep Aids?

Because cannabis is considered a controlled substance, there is limited research on the safety and efficacy of cannabis sleep aids compared to other sleep aids. Only a few synthetic drugs made to mimic THC, as well as one naturally derived CBD product, have been approved by the FDA. These are prescribed for nausea and other conditions, but not sleep.

As with other natural sleep aids, it is possible that some people may turn to medical cannabis in an effort to avoid more potent drugs, such as opioids. Although they can be very effective in the short term, many prescription and over-the-counter sleep medications are associated with a risk of abuse, tolerance, or dependence. Some natural sleep aids, like oral melatonin, appear to reduce insomnia without strong side effects, while other homeopathic options, like valerian, still need more research.

Which Type of Cannabis is Best For Sleep?

There are different strains of cannabis, which each produce different effects. The most common strains are indica and sativa:

  • Indica is thought to be more calming, and may help produce feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. People appear to prefer indica for pain management, relaxation, and sleep.
  • Sativa is considered more stimulating, and it may produce feelings of euphoria for some. People tend to use sativa to gain an energy boost.

Due to its relaxing effects, indica may be considered the best cannabis strain for sleep. However, individuals who use cannabis to avoid nightmares may prefer sativa. Hybrid strains with a mix of indica and sativa may produce different effects based on the specific makeup of cannabinoids and other ingredients.

Most of the differences attributed to sativa versus indica strains are based on the subjective experiences of cannabis users. Some researchers argue that the distinction between indica and sativa strains is less relevant than the variety in THC content and other ingredients in any particular product.

Risks and Side Effects of Using Cannabis for Sleep

Used on a short-term basis, cannabis may help you fall asleep faster. Health experts generally do not recommend using sleep aids, including cannabis, on a long-term basis, because of their potential to negatively impact your sleep quality and cause other side effects.

Studies suggest that people who use cannabis as a long-term sleep aid tend to develop a tolerance to its sedative effects, and may need to take more to obtain the same results. Heavy cannabis use, especially on a long-term basis, may have consequences for sleep, including:

  • Less sleep overall
  • Less time spent in deep sleep
  • Longer time to fall asleep
  • Frequent awakenings

One study found high doses of THC at night can lead to unwanted side effects the following day, such as impaired memory and sleepiness. Cannabis withdrawal can also produce sleep-related side effects, such as strange dreams, difficulty falling asleep, and less time spent in deep sleep.

Long-term cannabis use may also have health-related side effects. Studies have found the substance may reduce the volume of gray matter in your brain and, when smoked, increase your risk of chronic bronchitis. Health experts also recommend people avoid using cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Tips When Using Cannabis for Sleep

If you plan on trying cannabis as a sleep aid, your care provider can provide the best guidance based on your needs and medical history. However, it helps to have an understanding of the different options available.

What Form of Cannabis to Use for Sleep

Cannabis can be smoked, vaporized, eaten, or placed under the tongue as a sublingual tincture. Each format has different benefits and drawbacks. Those who are concerned about the effects of smoke on the lungs may prefer to avoid smoking it.

Different forms of cannabis offer different bioavailability, or how much of the active THC you can expect to make it into your bloodstream. Inhaled cannabis tends to have high bioavailability, as the THC enters your system directly. By contrast, edibles lose a significant amount of THC through the digestive process. Smoked cannabis can have bioavailability rates as high as 56%, compared with 4% to 20% for orally ingested cannabis.

When to Take Cannabis for Sleep

When choosing a type of cannabis, it is worth noting that different forms also take more or less time to produce effects. When you smoke cannabis, you can generally feel the effects almost immediately, whereas edibles can take longer to have an effect as they must work their way through your digestive system first.

The effects of smoked cannabis are highly variable depending on the person, the length of inhalation, the number of times it is inhaled, and other factors. It may be helpful to know that THC levels generally peak after about 10 minutes.

What Effects You May Notice

Because cannabis comes in a variety of strains and affects everyone differently, you may need to experiment before you find the format, dosage, and timing that work for you. THC is a psychoactive drug that tends to have other effects apart from promoting sleep. You may feel sleepy, relaxed, euphoric, or energized.

When using cannabinoids, some users may also experience dizziness, nausea, fatigue, dry mouth, vomiting, confusion, loss of balance, or hallucinations. You may also experience anxiety, panic attacks, or paranoia.

Using cannabis may not be a good idea for children and adolescents, as cannabis use has been linked to changes in the developing brain.

Deciding If Cannabis Is Right for You

Whether or not to use cannabis for sleep is a highly personal decision. Synthetic forms of cannabis appear to relieve nightmares and insomnia, but some researchers warn about the limitations of these studies and the potential risks of using cannabis until dosing is more standardized.

Many people use cannabis to successfully manage their pain and insomnia. However, some people find it makes them feel more paranoid or anxious. If you do not like the feeling of being high, a strain with a higher amount of CBD may be a better option for you.

Another important consideration is whether cannabis is legal where you live. If not, talk to your doctor about other ways to improve your sleep, such as better sleep hygiene or alternative sleep aids.

RS Recommends: How Do These CBD Products Help With Sleep?

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.

Everyone is trying to get better sleep today and there are no shortage of products that promise to help ease you into deeper slumber, from weighted blankets to fancy sound machines. But more and more people are adding CBD to their sleep checklist as well.

When Travis Barker had trouble falling asleep on tour, after a grueling schedule had him in a different city and different bed each night, the drummer started to look for more “natural ways to wind down.” That’s when he discovered CBD.

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“I used to have trouble with sleep,” Barker tells Rolling Stone, “and I would take a ton of melatonin, valerian tea, Tylenol PM, or Nyquil,” he admits, “but CBD was like the best kind of result that I got.”

The immediate benefits that Barker found with CBD led him to create Barker Wellness, a new line of cannabinoid-infused products that includes a unique CBD tincture for sleep. While CBD is not a medically-approved solution for sleep, experts say a little CBD could go a long towards promoting more soothing, stress-free slumber.

How Does CBD Work for Sleep?

“CBD is a compound that supports a powerful, yet widespread network of receptors in the body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is known to help regulate energy, mood, sleep, and more,” explains Dr. Jason Wersland, Founder and Chief Wellness Officer of Therabody, the newly-rebranded company that now includes the popular Theragun percussion devices as well as a line of lotions and tinctures for recovery and relief. “Researchers have found that CBD, found naturally in the hemp plant, interacts with ECS receptors throughout the body much like molecules the body naturally produces.”

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Experts say the best CBD products for sleep also help you wind down by addressing some of the root causes of restlessness and stress.

“Most people don’t realize the quality of sleep is closely related to stress and maintaining a strong immune system, and you need both systems properly in check if you want an optimal immune response to anything,” adds Jay Hartenbach, CEO of CBD brand Medterra. “If your cortisol levels are elevated, it can keep you awake. CBD is thought to decrease this and keep your body in a homeostasis state.”

If you’re just easing into CBD, Hartenbach suggests finding CBD products that also contain other ingredients that work together to help you feel more restful and relaxed. “CBD, amino acids, L-theanine and 5-HTP, and relaxing herbs like passion flower, chamomile, and lemon balm have each individually been shown to help with providing a full restful night and have been expertly formulated to work together for desired results to address the most common issues,” Hartenbach says. “Proper sleep and circadian control are absolutely essential to an optimally functioning immune system. If your body lacks restful sleep, so does your immunity.”

Will CBD for Sleep Make You Drowsy or High?

The best CBD for sleep is designed to help you ease into slumber — not knock you out. And unlike THC, which may have some psychoactive effects, Wersland says “CBD is non-intoxicating and will not make you feel high.”

If you’re new to CBD, trying a CBD gummy for sleep is an easy way to test out its effects in an easy-to-take format (basically like a gummy bear or gummy vitamin). Many brands also have flavorless CBD oils (or “CBD tinctures”), which come out of a dropper, letting you control exactly how much you want to take. Wersland’s suggestion: start small and then see how the tincture affects you. “If you’d like to take one full dropper that’s 33mg of full-spectrum CBD you can,” he says, “or you can take a ¼ of a dropper which is about 8mg of CBD.”

Of course CBD is primarily meant for therapeutic benefits and is not meant to replace any doctor-recommended prescriptions if you suffer from serious insomnia. You should also see a doctor if you have a severe sleep disorder, restlessness or anxiety, as CBD is not meant to treat those issues.

What is the Best CBD for Sleep?

If you’re looking to try out CBD products for sleep, we’re rounded up some of our favorite options below. These have all been tested by our editors for ease of use and efficacy, though CBD will affect everyone differently. All the products on our list have also been tested by independent third-party labs for quality assurance and safety but you should read the ingredient list and labels before using to find the right products for your needs.

1. evn Sleep Powder

If you’re used to a warm drink before bed to calm you down, evn’s Sleep Powder will help you ease your way into some Zzz’s. Each serving (about a spoonful) contains 20mg of full spectrum CBD which you blend into milk (of any kind), tea or hot water about 30 minutes before you go to bed.

Not only is the hemp organically-sourced and lab-tested, but the powder also has a “sleep-enhancing” blend of magnesium, passionflower, L-theanine, melatonin, vitamins, and minerals to give you a deeper sleep that you wake up from feeling refreshed instead of zonked. If you don’t want the “grassy” taste of a CBD oil right before you knock out, evn’s Sleep Powder has a pleasant cocoa flavor that tastes more like a pre-bed treat than a medicinal tincture. While it can take have an effective boost to your sleep quality after one night, evn recommends trying it for 2-3 nights to get the best rest possible.

BONUS: Use coupon code ROLLINGSTONE20 for 20% off your order at Evn-CBD.com.

2. Cornbread Hemp AM/PM CBD Oil Bundle

One of the easiest ways to get into CBD is with this AM/PM CBD oil bundle from Cornbread Hemp. Take a drop or two of the Distilled CBD Oil in the morning to start your day, and chill out at night with the Whole Flower CBD Oil. To use: place a few drops under your tongue and hold for 30 seconds before swallowing, or mix a few drops into a glass of water or your bedtime tea (it’s virtually tasteless and it dissolves easily).

Cornbread uses only USDA-certified organic ingredients, with no preservatives, flavors or sweeteners. Choose from an original strength or extra strength pack. What we like: the included dropper has four size markings (0.25, 0.50, 0.75 and 1ml) so you can easily control your dosage and work your way up (for reference, one serving is 1ml).

BONUS: Use coupon code RS20 for 20% off your purchase at CornbreadHemp.com.

3. Prima Sleep Tight Soft Gels

Take one or two of these Prime Soft Gels before bed each night as part of your wind down routine. In our experience, the easy-to-swallow capsules have worked wonders in helping us fall asleep faster — and stay asleep without waking up in the middle of the night.

While other CBD blends for sleep use melatonin to help you doze off, Prima’s formula is melatonin-free, swapping the popular sleep aid for other natural remedies, like the amino acid compounds 5-HTP and GABA (which promote relaxation and mood enhancement), plus natural herbs like passion flower, California poppy and lavender to help calm and sedate without the need for a prescription.

We woke up feeling less groggy too and the CBD capsules don’t give you that intoxicated feeling you get from cheaper generic CBD brands.

4. Sunday Scaries “Side Piece” Bundle

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all the CBD choices out there, Sunday Scaries’ “Side Piece” bundle is one of the easiest and least intimidating ways to get into a CBD routine. The bundle includes a bottle of fruit-flavored CBD gummies for when you want to chill out, and then a bottle of CBD oil for sleep. Typically $98 when you buy each item separately, the bundle gets you both for just $43 right now (a $55 savings).

Aside from being an incredible value, both the gummies and tincture have rave reviews online. Start with one gummy (10mg of CBD) after work, while you’re watching a movie, or when you want to zone out while doing chores or housework on the weekend. The CBD tincture, meantime, can go directly under the tongue, or in your tea, water, mixed into a smoothie or even mixed into your favorite lotion. Sunday Scaries also recommends trying a few drops of the CBD oil in your bath to help you relax. One bottle for the day and one bottle for night – your CBD routine just got a whole lot easier.

5. Charlotte’s Web CBD Gummies: Sleep

We’re big fans of these raspberry-flavored CBD gummies from Charlotte’s Web, which has helped us ease into sleep with less tossing and turning (or anxious thoughts). Each gummy contains 10mg of CBD, along with other natural sleep aids like 3mg of melatonin. We’ve found that these work fast, so take them just before bed (like 15-20 minutes before you hit the sack).

Each pack contains 30 servings. Not sure how your body will react? We started by taking half a gummy, before slowly graduating to taking the full piece.

6. Terravita Sleep CBD Capsules

If you prefer the ease of a capsule, we like Terravita’s Sleep CBD Capsules. These easy-to-swallow capsules include a broad spectrum hemp extract that contains 30mg of broad spectrum CBD (that’s also THC-free).

In addition to the hemp extracts, these capsules contain natural ingredients like L-Theanine (for stress), Valerian root (to fall asleep faster), melatonin (to help regulate the sleep cycle) and chamomile (which helps you get deeper sleep). Because this comes in a capsule format (rather than say, an edible or tincture), it can be great if you’re looking for a natural sleep aid, but hate the “grassy” flavor of traditional gummies.

Each order gets you 15 capsules. Take one at night about 30-45 minutes before bed. You can increase dosage to two capsules per day if you need something stronger.

7. Barker Wellness Sleep Tincture

Travis Barker’s new CBD line includes this easy-to-take sleep tincture. The unique formula combines CBD and CBN (another naturally occurring cannabinol said to help with insomnia), along with melatonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid believed to have stress-relieving properties. Take half a dropper to start and put it under your tongue or dissolve the drops into water. In our experience, we’ve found that a full drop under the tongue works best, though it takes an hour or so before you start feeling sleepy, so time it accordingly.

8. Zolt “Dreamy” Drink Mix

Nothing helps you unwind and get ready for bed quite like a hot, soothing drink, which is why we like these “Dreamy Mixie Sticks” from Zolt. Essentially a drink mix with CBD, each individually-wrapped pack contains 20mg of Kentucky-grown hemp, 3mg of melatonin and adaptogens (think aswagandha to help you de-stress). Natural honey, lemon and orange gives this a light citrusy flavor.

To use: pour one stick into about 8oz. of water. We like taking it with hot water about 20-30 minutes before bed. Prefer a more refreshing treat before you sleep? The Zolt drink mix blends easily into cold water too.

9. TheraOne Sleep CBD Tincture

Another easy-to-take CBD product that actually helps with sleep, from our experience, is the TheraOne Sleep CBD Tincture. Along with USDA-certified organic CBD, the TheraOne tincture also contains organic lavender, organic
lemon balm oil and organic chamomile, which the company says is “designed to help encourage deeper, more restorative sleep.”

TheraOne also touts its unique “Biosorb technology,” which it says can help increase the effectiveness of the CBD, so you can fall asleep faster — and stay sleeping more soundly.

To use: take one full dropper under the tongue, which delivers 33mg of CBD. You can also start with half a dropper to see how the formula affects you. Each bottle contains about 30 full servings.

Want the full-body experience? Get Therabody’s exclusive “Better Sleep Set,” which includes the Theragun Elite Smart Percussive Therapy device (a.k.a. a massage gun), soothing CBD Massage Oil, and a bottle of the TheraOne Sleep CBD Tincture. This all-in-one set is available for $574 at Theragun.com. It makes a great gift idea too.

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10. CBDFX CBD Gummies with Melatonin for Sleep

These CBD gummies are the easiest options on our list to take, and the least-intimidating way to get into CBD for sleep. Take two of these gummies 30 minutes before bed for best effects. The lemon-flavored chews combine CBD with melatonin, which is a natural sleep aid. The company says the addition of magnesium helps to promote calmness.

Each serving of two gummies contains 50mg of broad spectrum CBD. Everything is certified vegan, all-natural and gluten-free, so it’s easy on the stomach too. A bonus: they actually taste pretty good too.

11. cbdMD Bath Bombs

A relaxing bath is always a good way to destress before bed, and many companies are now making CBD bath bombs for sleep. This one, from cbdMD, is made from a mix of USA-sourced hemp CBD and calming essential oils like frankincense, lavender, eucalyptus. The addition of epsom salts adds further restorative benefits.

This multi-pack contains six bath bombs in different colors and scents. Get 100mg of CBD per bath bomb. The effects of this are mild, so you’ll want to throw the entire CBD bomb in the water and let it slowly dissolve.

12. Terravita Sleep Better Bundle

Get the benefits of a bath and an ingestible with this Sleep Better Bundle from Terravita. The premium CBD company is known for their unique and potent formulas, which combine full-spectrum CBD with plant-based ingredients (think coconut oil, lavender oil and aloe vera in the bath soak, and hempseed oil and grapefruit in the tincture).

This set gets you a CBD bath soak to help with relaxation and recovery after a long day; a sleep CBD tincture to help you wind down; and a bottle of sleep CBD capsules that the company says promotes better sleep.

Use each item separately or as part of your nightly wellness routine. You’ll want to start with 3-4 scoops of the CBD bath soak and let it dissolve in warm water before getting in the bath. We like using it after a workout or travel, to help detox the body. For the tincture, take one full dropper and hold under your tongue for 30-60 seconds. The recommended dosage for the capsules, meantime, is one capsule, about 30-45 minutes before bed.

13. NuLeaf Naturals Full-Spectrum CBN Oil

Colorado-based NuLeaf Naturals makes some of the most straight-forward and fast-acting CBD products on the market, with easy-to-take formulas that promise to help clear your mind and prepare your body for sleep. We like their full-spectrum CBN oil, which uses CBN, another cannabinoid in the cannabis plant that is said to have sleep benefits. While some CBD can have energizing effects, researchers have found that CBN is used more as a natural sedative.

This bottle contains 60 servings of CBN oil – about 30mg per dropper. Start with half a dropper to see if you feel sleepy; gradually increase to a full dropper for maximum effect.

Marijuana Statistics in the US: Cannabis Use & Abuse (2022 Data Update)

The United States cannabis industry has grown stronger over the past few decades. It even surpassed expectations.

This U.S. marijuana statistics report shows you how the cannabis landscape has changed over the years. It will also give you a glimpse of its future.

How Many People Smoke Weed?

12% of American adults smoke cannabis, says a 2021 Gallup telephone survey [12]. This percentage has not changed much in recent years. It plays anywhere between 11% and 13% from 2015 to 2019 [1].

However, this has had a significant increase from 2013’s 7%. It was in 2013 that the number of smokers was initially measured [11].

As for marijuana consumers, there had only been about 28 million marijuana users in 2012. This increased to 47 million in 2020. By the end of 2022, 52 million Americans will now have consumed cannabis [20].

If this trend continues, the number of people who use marijuana will increase to 71 million by 2030 [20].

What Age Group Smokes the Most Weed?

At 20%, it’s the millennials who smoke the most weed. They’re also the generation that consumes the most weed, making up 51% of the country’s cannabis consumers [12].

Gallup’s 2021 report showed that 45% of all American adults now have tried marijuana [12].

Of this percentage, millennials (1981 to 1996) make up the majority at 51%. Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964) follows at 50% [12].

Gen X (1965 to 1990) make up 49%, while the traditionalists (before 1946) make up the smallest percentage at 19% [12].

Of these numbers, it’s the young people who tend to smoke weed more, with 20% of Millennials making up the majority. This is followed by 11% of the Gen Xers as well as 9% of the Baby Boomers [12].

Again, it’s the Traditionalists who make up the smallest percentage at 1% [12].

When it comes to gender, 15% of adult men smoke weed than 9% of women [11].

Marijuana Use in Teens: How Many Teens Use Marijuana?

10.1% or 2.5 million American teens between 12 and 17 years old use marijuana illicitly, says the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2020 survey [31].

The 2021 report published on the National Institute on Drug Abuse website (NIDA) also notes that marijuana use is highest among 12th graders at 30.5%. However, this percentage has decreased from 2020’s 35.2% [21].

10th graders ranked second in marijuana users at 17.3%, a decrease in percentage from the 2020s at 28% [21].

Marijuana users among 8th graders also decreased from 11.4% in 2020 to 7.1% in 2021 [21].

Marijuana legalization, licensed dispensaries replacing drug dealers, and teens having a harder time obtaining illegal weed played a part in reducing their number, says a 2019 study published in Jama Psychiatry.

In states that have legalized recreational weed, there had already been an 8% decrease in the likelihood of minors trying marijuana [3].

Marijuana Use in College Students: How Many College Students Use Weed?

44% of American college students have used marijuana regularly in 2020. It’s a significant increase from 2016’s 39% says NIDA’s 2020 drug use survey [28].

43% of noncollege youth of the same age are also using marijuana in 2020. This percentage also increased from 41% in 2016 [28].

One factor that may have contributed to this increase is their reduced perception of marijuana’s risk of harm. The highest level was 75% in 1991 [29].

By 2002, only 35.5% of young Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 think regular marijuana use is harmful. This percentage has further decreased to 27% in 2010 and 14.8% in 2020 [13] [31].

What State Smokes the Most Weed?

The District of Columbia smokes the most weed at 30.81%. Vermont at 30.15% and Oregon at 28.53% follows [22].

On the other hand, Texas smokes the least weed at 12.81%, followed by South Dakota at 13.42% and Virginia at 13.82% [22].

Among the regions, the West consumes the most weed at 22.70%, compared to the South at 15.14% [22].

How Much is the Weed Industry Worth?

The legal marijuana industry in the U.S. is worth $27 billion in 2021. The recreational weed industry was at $15 billion, and medical cannabis was at $11 [20].

By the end of 2022, the legal cannabis industry is projected to grow to $32 billion. Again, the recreational weed industry gets the largest market share at $20 billion. The medical cannabis industry trailed behind at $13 billion [20].

If the market trend continues, the legal marijuana industry could grow to $58 billion by 2030. The recreational weed market could grow double the medical cannabis industry’s at $41 billion and $17 billion, respectively [20].

Market analysts predict continued growth in marijuana sales. There will also be more marijuana consumers by 2030 [20]:

  • From 32 million American people who use marijuana in 2014 to 71 million by 2030
  • From 1.4 million registered medical marijuana patients in 2014 to 5.7 million by 2030
  • From $20 billion in marijuana sales in 2020 to $58 million by 2030

Cannabis Sales Statistics: What State Sells the Most Weed?

California sold the most weed in 2020 at $5.7 billion in 2020 [1].

Colorado also comes in second with $2.5 and Illinois with $1.9 billion [1].

The state with the lowest legal cannabis sales is Iowa, with $6 million. North Dakota with $13 million and Vermont with $14 million follow [1].

In total, cannabis sales in the U.S. reached $27 billion in 2021, a $7-billion increase from the 2020s of $20 billion [20].

Which Has the Highest Marijuana Revenue by State?

California had the highest marijuana revenue at $1.3 billion in 2021 [6].

Colorado comes in second place, earning one-third of California’s tax revenue at $423.5 million [15].

Illinois also earned $317.1 million in 2021, placing them in third place [4].

California’s younger cannabis market quickly overtook Washington and Colorado’s more matured market. Both states legalized recreational weed in 2012.

In 2018, for example, Washington was the top cannabis tax revenue earner at $437.2 million [25]. California at $397.7 million and Colorado at $266.5 million came in second and third places, respectively [6] [15].

By 2019, California’s $638.1 million tax revenue has overtaken Washington’s $477.3 million tax revenue [6] [25]. In 2020, California’s tax revenue breached the billion-dollar mark at $1.03 billion and $1.3 billion in 2021 [6].

Of all the U.S. states, Washington has the highest excise tax rate on recreational weed at 37%. With the addition of other taxes, this goes up to 46.2% [34]. The state’s legal cannabis sales are only one-third of California’s at $1.7 billion in 2020 [1]. By 2021, its marijuana tax revenue is almost half of California’s at $630.9 million in 2021 [25].

It comes as no surprise then that its illicit marijuana market is still thriving. In D.C., for example, its illicit marijuana market is worth $600 million in sales per year [17].

The illicit marijuana market is also thriving in states where weed is illegal. Texas spent as high as $6 billion on illicit marijuana in 2022, and North Carolina came in second at $3 billion [20].

Which State Has the Most Dispensaries?

Oklahoma has the most dispensaries, with 2,129. California and Oregon follows with 1,440 and 1,344, respectively [10].

On the other hand, Missouri has the least number of dispensaries with one. This is followed by Rhode Island with three and New Hampshire and North Dakota with four [10].

What are the Average Dispensary Sales Per Day and Per Year?

On average, the sales of a regulated medical cannabis dispensary can reach about $8,219 daily. It can also earn $3 million annually [16].

Regulated recreational marijuana dispensaries and combo stores can earn about $4,932 daily. These shops can also earn $1.8 million yearly [16].

The unregulated medical marijuana dispensary’s daily sales reach about $2,027 per day. Yearly, it can earn $0.74 million [16].

Dispensaries that operate under a regulated legal weed market earn higher than unregulated dispensaries. One reason for this is the cap placed on the number of dispensaries that can operate per location. The cap lets them serve a bigger base of customers.

On the other hand, unregulated dispensaries earn less. They may be serving a large client base, but they’re also competing with more dispensaries, which eats away at their share.

Is the Average Dispensary Income Profitable?

53% of the regulated medical cannabis dispensary owners say it’s very profitable, and so do 45% of the regulated recreational and combo marijuana dispensary owners.

12% of the regulated medical cannabis dispensary owners say it’s moderately profitable. 23% of the regulated recreational and combo marijuana dispensary owners also find their businesses moderately profitable [16].

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An equal percentage (29%) of both types of regulated dispensaries say they’re just breaking even [16].

9% of the regulated dispensaries are either losing some money or losing a lot of money [16].

Again, it’s the unregulated dispensaries that seem to suffer the most [16].

  • 42% say they’re only breaking even.
  • 4% say they’re losing some money.
  • 8% say they’re losing a lot of money.

Cannabis Industry Growth: Legalization Timeline from Medical to Recreational

It took California 20 years to legalize recreational weed in 2016. The state legalized medical marijuana use in 1996 [20].

Maine legalized medical marijuana use in 1999. It took the state 17 years to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016 [20].

Montana also took 17 years to legalize adult use. It approved marijuana for medicinal use in 2004 and adult use in 2021 [20].

The states with short legalization timelines are Massachusetts and Virginia.

It took Massachusetts four years to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2016. The state legalized medical cannabis in 2012 [20].

Virginia has the shortest legalization timeline of one year. The state legalized marijuana for medical use in the past year (2020). It also legalized recreational marijuana by the next year (2021) [20].

This isn’t true for all states though. Hawaii has been waiting for 22 years to legalize adult-use marijuana. It legalized marijuana for medical use in 2000. Delaware has also been waiting 11 years. The state legalized medical cannabis use in 2011 [20].

Marijuana Legalization Facts and Statistics

Four more states legalized recreational weed In 2021. Two states also approved the use of weed medically.

In all, 39 states have now legalized high-THC medical marijuana use. 19 states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana use. Both include the District of Columbia [20].

Only six states remain where marijuana is fully illegal, and these are [14]:

  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Wyoming

74%, 248 million, or nearly three-quarters of the United States 332.4 million population, now have access to some form of legal cannabis [19].

44% of American adults also now have access to legal recreational weed [20].

Only 26% or 89 million Americans live in states that still prohibit the use of any form of cannabis [20].

Before 2030, we’ll probably see nine more states legalizing adult-use marijuana. Nine more states might also legalize medical cannabis [20].

If this happens, it could mean giving 67 million more Americans access to legal weed. 74 million Americans will also have access to legal medical cannabis [20].

68% (17 in 25 Americans) believe that the federal government should legalize marijuana. This has doubled from 2001’s 34% [32].

This percentage is lower than the 2021 Pew Research Center survey. In their survey, 91% of American adults say they’re for the legalization of the herb [9]. This is a 50 percentage point increase from the 2010s 41% [23].

  • Of the 91%, 60% say they’re for medical and recreational use. 31% say they’re for medical purposes only.
  • 8% are against weed legalization.

Of note, marijuana is still illegal under federal law [7].

Medical Marijuana Statistics: How Many People Use Medical Marijuana in the U.S.?

4.4 million registered patients used medical marijuana in the U.S. in 2021. By the end of 2022, this will go up to an estimated 4.7 million [20].

Analysts project that the number of registered medical marijuana patients can go as high as 5.7 million by 2030. They would make up 2% of the country’s entire population [20].

What Do People Use Medical Cannabis for?

64.2% of medical cannabis patients use it for chronic and severe pain, similar to CBD and kratom. 13% use it for muscle spasms and 6.3% for severe nausea [18].

Is Medical Cannabis Effective?

78% of cannabis users use it medically for symptoms and disease control, says a 2018 U.M. Institute for Social Research survey [33].

Of this percentage, 42% weaned themselves off of pharmaceutical medications. 38% say they reduced their intake of pharmaceutical drug use while being on medical cannabis [33].

What Do Americans Think of Medical Cannabis?

67% of physicians are now in favor of nationwide medical cannabis legalization, says a 2018 Medscape poll [8]. Medscape is a part of the WebMD Health Corp.

This percentage has increased from WebMD’s 2014 survey, which showed that 56% approve of legalizing medical cannabis on a federal level [24].

43% of Americans have already tried cannabis and CBD for medical reasons. Of this percentage [26]:

  • 32% say it’s a good alternative to pharmaceutical and traditional medical products.
  • 26% say they would choose it more than chemical medications.

Cannabis Trends During the COVID19 Pandemic

Marijuana sales increased by 38% in several states in March 2020, compared to January’s first full week of the same year. Cannabis sales peaked by the end of August 2020, increasing by 59% compared to January 2020’s first week [27].

Because marijuana was considered essential during the pandemic, consumers needed a way to get their supplies. This gave rise to curbside pickups, drive-through options, and online preorders.

New customer sign-ups for online ordering and delivery increased by 59%. There has also been a 44% increase in first-time deliveries [30].

For some dispensaries, online transactions made up 90% of their marijuana sales. In-person sales made up only 10% [27].

Cannabis stores that offered preorders enjoyed a 22% increase in sales. Those that didn’t offer the preorders failed to enjoy the same benefits. [5].

There has also been a change in the cannabis consumption trend.

The COVID19 virus affected the lungs more. Because of this, more cannabis consumers switched from smoking marijuana to edibles. This made edibles the top choice among cannabis products. By the time 2020 ended, edibles had already made up 22% of all marijuana sales [30].

Edibles became the top choice across all age groups, too, except for the Gen Zs.

People belonging to this age group still prefer their vapes to edibles, flowers (cannabis Sativa and cannabis Indica plant), and pre-rolls [30].

Will These Cannabis Trends Continue?

By the end of 2020, cannabis sales have gradually slowed down to pre-pandemic levels. However, some trends continued [2].

  • Marijuana delivery and curbside pickup were about equal in 2020’s first half. However, the first half of 2021 showed that more consumers are now in favor of cannabis delivery. Cannabis delivery made up 60% of 2021’s orders, compared to 2020s 40%.
  • Cannabis deliveries increased by 97% compared to 2020’s first half.

Edibles may have gained popularity during the pandemic. However, cannabis flowers still remained the popular choice. It made up 50% of the whole cannabis sales in January 2022 [20].

What’s the Future of the U.S. Cannabis Industry?

The future of the country’s marijuana industry seems pretty rosy [20].

  • The legal medical cannabis industry could increase from $9 billion in 2020 to a $17 billion industry by 2030.
  • The legal recreational industry could grow from $20 billion in 2020 to a $58 billion industry by 2030.

Final Thoughts — U.S. Marijuana Industry Outlook

We can expect the country’s legal marijuana industry to continue growing. The number of medical and recreational cannabis consumers is expected to grow in the coming years. In time, weed will become a part of daily life. Marijuana sales are up. Support for marijuana legalization on a federal level has also increased.

Social acceptance has risen as well. There are now more states with some form of legal marijuana than states where it’s fully illegal.

If market prediction stays true, the country’s legal marijuana market could easily become a $58 billion to $72 billion industry [20].

References

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  2. 2021 Cannabis in America. (2022). Weedmaps. [2]
  3. Anderson, D. M., Hansen, B., Rees, D. I., & Sabia, J. J. (2019). Association of Marijuana Laws With Teen Marijuana Use. JAMA Pediatrics, 173(9), 879. [3]
  4. Annual Report Fiscal Year 2021. (2021). Illinois Department of Revenue. [4]
  5. Cannabis, COVID-19, and Beyond. (2020). State of the Cannabis Industry. [5]
  6. Cannabis Tax Revenues. (2022). California Department of Tax and Fee Administration. [6]
  7. Drug Fact Sheet: Marijuana/Cannabis. (2020). Drug Enforcement Administration. [7]
  8. Frellick, M. (2018). Medical, Recreational Marijuana Should Be Legal, Most Clinicians Say. Medscape Medical News. [8]
  9. Green, T. V. (2021). Americans overwhelmingly say marijuana should be legal for recreational or medical use. Pew Research Center. [9]
  10. Hobson, K. (2021). Cannabis Dispensaries Growth Study 2022. Kisi. [10]
  11. Hrynowski, Z. (2020). What Percentage of Americans Smoke Marijuana? Gallup, Inc. [11]
  12. Jones, J. M. (2021). Nearly Half of U.S. Adults Have Tried Marijuana. Gallup, Inc. [12]
  13. Lipari, R., Kroutil, L. A., & Pemberton, M. R. (2015). Risk and Protective Factors and Initiation of Substance Use: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). [13]
  14. Map of Marijuana Legality by State. (2022). Disa. [14]
  15. Marijuana Tax Reports. (2022). Colorado Department of Revenue. [15]
  16. McVey, E. (2017). Marijuana Business Factbook 2017. Marijuana Business Daily. [16]
  17. Medical Marijuana Patient Access. (2022). District of Columbia Council. [17]
  18. Medical Marijuana Patient Breakdown by Qualifying Medical Condition. (2016). [Bubble Chart]. Marijuana Business Daily. [18]
  19. Moore, D. (2021). U.S. Population Estimated at 332,403,650 on Jan. 1, 2022. United States Census Bureau. [19]
  20. Morrissey, K., Reiman, A., Tomares, N., & Adams, J. (2022, March). 2022 U.S. Cannabis Report. New Frontier Data. [20]
  21. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2021). Percentage of adolescents reporting drug use decreased significantly in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic endured. National Institutes of Health (NIH). [21]
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  24. Rappold, R. S. (2014). Legalize Medical Marijuana, Doctors Say in Survey. WebMD. [24]
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  31. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2021). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. [31]
  32. Support for Legal Marijuana Holds at a Record High of 68%. (2021). Gallup, Inc. [32]
  33. Wadley, J. (2019). Many users prefer medical marijuana over prescription drugs. Michigan News (University of Michigan). [33]
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Nina Julia

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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