Millennials are using less alcohol and more cannabis

Published Mar 4, 2019 10:04 a.m. ET

With two choices of substance now available to Canadians thanks to marijuana legalization, it’s no surprise that the youngest adult generation is now choosing marijuana use over alcohol consumption. Now only are they much more likely to use either recreational or medical marijuana, but they are also more accepting of cannabis in general. To find this out, we took a look at several studies that were conducted on marijuana use that focused on finding the average number of millennials who consume weed regularly.

How many millennials are now using Cannabis?

There are currently 55 million people in the world that have smoked or used cannabis in the last year. 35 million of those who use marijuana regularly, which is measured by using marijuana-derived products at least once a month. That is an incredibly high number, and to some these results are even shocking, but just how many of those 35 million are millennials, and how many of them are using cannabis instead of alcohol? According to Statistics Canada, 20.5% of all marijuana consumers are millennials.

Alcohol vs marijuana use

There are no exact numbers to refer to on the number of millennials that now use cannabis instead of alcohol, but one thing is clear through studies and tests that questioned how millennials feel about the two subjects separately, and that is this age group’s overall acceptance of marijuana legalization, and marijuana use is skyrocketing. While those same people are much more hesitant about alcohol.

Parental acceptance

Most millennials have parents that grew up during times where cannabis was illegal, but still widely used and accepted. Many of our parents either smoke pot now, or have at least a few stories to share about that one night back in the day. The general acceptance rates of cannabis have risen by 8% over the last five years and only 5% in the decade prior. This shows a slow but steady change in society which has granted many of us the potential to smoke with our parents. One study conducted by Statistics Canada asked respondents who were between age 23 to 38 how likely they would be to smoke marijuana with their parents and 25% of them answered that is was likely to occur at some point if it hadn’t already. Alcohol for the first time had a slightly different change in numbers with only 22% saying they would be likely to drink with their parents.

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One of the most significant factors that seem to affect how millennials feel about either substance is the side effects. With so many being young adults and most in the throes of having children, full time jobs, and building careers that eat up an average of 62 hours per week there is little time to sit around and nurse as hangover. When millennials are asked why they use cannabis the most given answer is that marijuana use has effects that are short-lived and less painful to deal with than those from alcohol.


It’s no surprise that in this age of technology and information millennials are more concerned about their health than any other prior generations. With trends like organic, vegan, or gluten-free eating habits, and the lowest smoking rates paired with the highest number of vapers shows a heightened awareness about all health issues among this generation. Alcohol is damaging in many ways from the very start of consumption bringing on dehydration, to future liver and heart disease issues. It’s an easy choice for most in this age group to steer clear of the health problems we watched our parents and grandparents endure. When millennials were questioned about their thoughts on the safety of consuming cannabis vs. alcohol 81% said they felt safer and healthier using marijuana than alcohol.


For many millennials, it’s the small paychecks and high costs of living that keep them on the side of marijuana use instead of alcohol. Though it’s easy to burn through hundreds of dollars of cannabis products in a short period of time, it’s much easier and cheaper to microdose using THC than it is to maintain a buzz with alcohol.

Societal changes

Now that marijuana legalization has spread across the globe, it is now more socially acceptable than ever (in our lifetimes) to use marijuana for recreational use which has made the act of buying and consuming it much more enjoyable. The fear of repercussions still remains with a few who are stuck in an era of prohibition that they based their lives around, but as the population ages and cannabis finds its way onto shelves everywhere in the world, it will eventually be just as comfortable as alcohol. A personal preference but one that is and should be respected without any aura of criminality.



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