Colorado, California, Rhode Island, Washington, Oregon: These are the top spots in the United States for smoking marijuana. Whether because it’s legal or because more locals use it, these states top the list here at home.
But what about elsewhere in the world? Are there other countries that love cannabis as much as we do, and if so, which ones?
If you believe reports from the United Nations, the top honor belongs to Iceland. According to UN data, the Scandinavian nation uses more marijuana as a percentage of its total population than any other nation.
That doesn’t mean an awful lot, though. It’s true, a reported 18 percent of Icelanders used the drug in 2012, more than any other country, including the United States, which came in second with 15.4 percent in 2013. But there’s more to the story.
UN research was flawed
Iceland’s leaders were unhappy when that ranking made the news three years ago, saying the data were incomplete and measured only a small fraction of the country’s population. Experts agree, saying the UN failed to account for the most important statistic: How many adults use cannabis every or nearly every day.
“Measuring past-year users doesn’t show us anything because so many people use very rarely, so they don’t factor into demand and they don’t factor into the public health,” said Jonathan Caulkins, who teaches at Carnegie Mellon University.
That’s because most cannabis consumption involves users who toke daily or almost daily, Caulkins said.
“A little over half of cannabis in the U.S. is consumed by people who spend more than half of their waking hours under the influence,” he said.
U.S. marijuana use on the rise
In the United States in 2013, almost 8 percent of people 12 or older said they had used within the past month, up from 6 percent a decade earlier. The numbers come from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
But more important than that, Caulkins said, is the number showing how many days per month a person uses cannabis. That figure shows that 2.6 percent of Americans use marijuana at least 21 days out of the month.
So how does Iceland stack up against those numbers? As it turns out, the country doesn’t keep such close track of cannabis use, so there’s no way to know for sure. But many European countries do, and that at least gives us somewhere to start.
Twenty countries on the continent track daily or almost-daily consumption. As in the United States, these statistics were collected in different years, depending on the country. Among other things, the numbers suggest marijuana use has held steady in most places over the years.
Spain, France, Italy topped the European list
As for Europe, Spain, France, and Italy scored the highest percentages of residents who use cannabis every day or almost every day. Spain, like the United States, reported a rate of 2.6 percent, while France reported 1.7 percent and Italy 1.5 percent.
Surprisingly, the one EU country best known for its marijuana use scores much lower. In the Netherlands, where the drug is illegal but widely tolerated, less than 1 percent of residents use it on a near-daily basis.
Sadly, the figures don’t tell us exactly which country smokes the most; the reporting methods and time frames are simply too varied. But for what it’s worth, the United States more than holds its own.
Which nation do you think tokes the most? Comment below.