With cannabis becoming the new darling industry globally, being a consumer doesn’t come with the same negative connotations as it used to. In fact, with the desire to build larger markets, having a cannabis consumer culture is becoming cooler and cooler. Let’s see where around the world, people are being the coolest.
The question of who consumes the most cannabis these days has become rather popular, with different lists being made of the geographic locations that are known for their smoking numbers. While some city and country names are expected, and pop up on multiple lists, others seemingly come out of nowhere, shining a light on what is going on around the world in the way of cannabis. And some places, which we’ve always thought of as cannabis capitals, have been eclipsed by these new cannabis cultures.
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Which city smokes the most?
According to an index into global cannabis consumption conducted by ABCD and Seeds, a German media company, and a company that provides growing materials, respectively, the top smoking city in 2018 was New York city which consumed 77.44 metric tons of cannabis that year. Karachi, Pakistan took the second place that year with 41.95 metric tons consumed. With a little over 8 million inhabitants, this means that the rate of consuming cannabis is way higher in New York than it is in Karachi, with its intensely fast growing population of around 16 million now. That means Karachi has twice as many inhabitants as New York city, but smokes just over half as much cannabis.
New Delhi, India came in third for 2018, with 38.26 metric tons smoked between its 16.7+ million residents. New Delhi actually refers to a smaller municipality within Delhi, but as the terms are generally used interchangeably, and New Delhi itself is comprised of around 142,000, it makes it much more likely that the Index used the wrong term.
The city of Los Angeles and Cairo rounded out the top five cities consuming 36, and 32.5 metric tons of cannabis, respectively. Mumbai, London, Chicago, Moscow, and Toronto finished out the list with Mumbai consuming 32 metric tons, and Toronto, 22.75.
Noticeably missing from this list are cities like Amsterdam and Barcelona, which have become synonymous with smoking culture, but which realistically don’t provide the same overall percentages of smokers as these other cities. Smaller cities sometimes have a much higher percentage of smoking, while still consuming far less than a city that dwarfs it in size, but has a lower percentage of smokers.
How about just the US? Which state consumes the most?
When looking at the number of cannabis users in different US States, it should be remembered that the total number of smokers, and the percentage of smokers, can be very different, and lead to unexpected places on the list, or not being included on it at all. For example, Colorado topped the list with 21.6% using cannabis, making for the largest percentage, but with only about 900,000 smokers total.
This in in contrast to California which has the biggest cannabis economy in the world, yet didn’t make it onto the list. California most certainly has the most smokers of any state with over 4.6 million consumers, but California is quite large, and those 4.6 million only account for 14.9% of the total population. The rest of the list goes as follows: Oregon at #2 with 646,000 consumers, accounting for 19.9% of the population. Vermont at #3 with a mere 108,000, which – as a showing to the size of the state – still accounts for 19.8 of the population. At #4, Alaska is similar to Vermont in that it only has about 114,000 consumers, but these 114,000 represent 19.5% of the state population. Washington comes in at #5 with the first large showing of consumers at 1.1 million, making up 19.5% of the population. Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Mexico make up the rest of the top ten.
So, the state with the largest percentage of smokers is Colorado, and the state with the most consumers total is California. This information comes courtesy of the site 24/7 Wall Street, which reviewed Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration data. How accurately it captured consumer data is hard to say. I expect in the near future, many more surveys of this nature will be taken, and likely over time a more specific picture will emerge.
What about countries?
When looking at the overall consumption between countries, the same issue arises as within the States. Percentages of cannabis smokers in a country can often give a drastically different story then the actual number of smokers. Smaller countries sometimes have larger percentages, but far less actual smokers than larger countries that have large numbers of cannabis consumers, but a lower overall percentage of their overall populations.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the country with the highest percentage of smokers is Iceland, with 18.3% of its 15-64 year old age group consuming cannabis. Iceland, it should be remembered, has a population of all of 341,000. Second to Iceland was the US with 16.2% cannabis consumers, and in third place Nigeria with 14.3%. Nigeria, on the opposite end of Iceland, has 200 million inhabitants, making it’s 14.3% of the population account for significantly more smokers than 16.2% of Iceland’s tiny population. Fourth on the list was Canada, which contributes 12.7% of its overall population of 37 million to the global cannabis consuming population.
Should these numbers be updated?
The truth is, it’s incredibly hard to establish something like the number of smokers in a location, and often the information is obtained through organizations, or studies which might not be offering the best picture. It also matters what is being measured. Whether a particular study is looking at daily users, people who have used in the last year, or people who have consumed it at least once in their lives. Getting into the particulars of these numbers can drastically change what they mean. Maybe a country has 15% of their population as cannabis consumers, but maybe of that 15%, only half smoke more than once a month. That’s an incredibly different thing then 15% who all smoke daily.
Establishing these numbers is still a new thing, and with reporters always looking for stories, you can bet you’ll see a lot of changing numbers in the future, and not many of them will be terribly accurate.
Not very long ago, there used to be a few cities that would register as cannabis hubs, the known places where everyone expected to find the most smokers. Now with the world opening up in terms of regulation and opinion, more cities and countries are coming out as central locations for cannabis consumption, and places never thought before as cannabis hubs – like Karachi, and Lagos – are now becoming some of the largest consumers in the world.