Generation Z has been shaped by a variety of dynamics that have dominated their young lives: technology and social media, social justice movements and, according to fresh research, abundant access to cannabis.
That is perhaps the chief takeaway from a study conducted by New Frontier Data, a firm that specializes in research on cannabis policy.
The study, released last week, found that 69% of individuals aged 18-24 prefer cannabis over alcohol.
In fact, the figures were comparable among the next two age cohorts: 70% of those between the ages of 25 and 34 said they also prefer weed, while 68% of those aged 35-44 said the same.
The numbers are indicative of emerging generations of young adults who came of age at a time when a large and growing number of states and cities throughout the United States have legalized recreational cannabis for adults.
Moreover, polls routinely show large majorities of young Americans support ending the prohibition on pot.
New Frontier Data noted in the study’s analysis that Generation Z, AKA “Zoomers,” or individuals born between 1997 and 2012, “were between birth or age 15 when the first states legalized cannabis.”
“Gen Z is the first generation to be of legal consumption age in an environment with widespread adult-use cannabis access,” New Frontier Data’s vice president of public policy research Amanda Reiman told Bloomberg.
Bloomberg reported that New Frontier Data’s study “included 4,170 current cannabis consumers and 1,250 nonconsumers, found that the preference seems to fade with age, with just 44% of respondents aged 65 to 74 choosing weed over booze.”
While the research suggests a greater familiarity and comfort with cannabis, it also indicates that young people are generally less drawn to alcohol and tobacco than their older peers.
“A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health by researchers at the University of Washington looked at alcohol and tobacco consumption among Gen Zers in Washington during 2014-2019,” the New Frontier researchers wrote. “Those findings saw declines in each past-month alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking, and cigarette use during that period. It is possible that the reductions were related to an overall disinterest in alcohol and tobacco among individuals in Gen Z, an observation supported in the New Frontier Data Consumer Survey.”
“Cannabis consumers aged 18-24 were most likely to say they never drank alcohol (19.7%), and the least likely to say that they drank every day (5.9%). They were also the most likely (among those under age 55) to say that they never used tobacco (39.3%), and the least likely (among those under 65) to say that they used it every day (26.3%),” the researchers continued.
Among individuals aged 18-24, “more than half (56%) reported replacing some of their alcohol with cannabis, compared to nearly 60% among ages 25-34, and more than 60% among 35-44-year-olds,” according to the study, which noted that those “rates declined further among older cohorts, from over 44% among ages 45-54, to about 43% among ages 55-64, and nearly 30% among ages 65-74.”
“The numbers suggest that young people are learning to navigate the legal cannabis landscape without adopting compulsive, increased use, and may also be less likely to consume either alcohol or tobacco, thereby making cannabis their drug of choice,” the researchers wrote in their concluding analysis. “Considering that cannabis carries a lower risk of dependence than do either alcohol or tobacco – and presents no risk of either fatal overdose (e.g., alcohol) or long-term impacts to the lungs (e.g., tobacco) – it suggests that the younger generation may indeed be making more considered choices about their consumption patterns.”
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Researchers say that the current crop of 18-24 years olds is “the first generation to be of legal consumption age in an environment with widespread adult-use cannabis access.”
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