Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the world. An estimated 119 to 224 million people aged 15 to 64—between 2.6 and 5 percent of people in that age group—have used marijuana at least once in the past year. That means marijuana users may account for 75 to 80 percent of all illicit drug users worldwide. Nearly one of every four marijuana users—24 percent—is in the Americas; Western and Central Europe account for 13 percent of total users. Within the Americas, 81 percent of users are from North America,36 even though this subregion represents only 50 percent of the hemisphere’s population.

In the Americas, 6.6 percent of the population aged 15-64 has used marijuana in the past 12 months. Marijuana use in the hemisphere is practically identical to that in Western and Central Europe, and surpasses by far the world average.Regional averages encompass significant variations among countries. In some countries of the Americas, past-year use is less than 1 percent of the 15-64 year-old population, while in others it is more than 14 percent.

Marijuana use in North America averages 10.8 percent of the population, with very marked differences between the United States and Canada (both countries are near 14 percent) compared to Mexico (1 percent). In Central America, the average is around 2.4 percent of the population, a figure similar to the average in South America. No comparable data are available for the Caribbean region.

Marijuana use is found not only among the adult population; a significant level of use is also seen among schoolchildren. In 9 of the 33 countries that were evaluated in the hemisphere, over 30 percent of the student population had used marijuana at some point in their lives. In 12 countries, it should be noted, more than 10 percent of students aged 14 or under had used marijuana at least once; in 11 countries, marijuana use among 17-year-olds was over 30 percent. In those countries with higher levels of marijuana use, the difference between males and females was smaller.

Marijuana use is increasing among high school students in the majority of countries in the Americas. An exception is Canada, where from 2010 to 2011 a drop from 27 to 21 percent in past-year prevalence of cannabis use was reported among students in the 7th to 12th grades.

Source: Drug Problem in the Americas, Study on Drugs and Public Health


The Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) maintains this website as part of its goal to provide OAS Member States with a factual overview of the drug problem in the Americas and a solid evidence base to support the drug debate. While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of the information presented in this site, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided here and cannot accept responsibility or liability for any consequences arising from the use of the information. This webpage is intended purely as an information service. The Executive Secretariat of the CICAD does not endorse any of the information or conclusions on this informative webpage. Our goal is to keep this information timely and accurate. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.

updated on 4/10/2014 10:49:22 AM