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How Many Members of Congress Use Marijuana? How Many Members of Congress Use Marijuana?

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Congress

How Many Members of Congress Use Marijuana?

Rep. Jared Polis has a guess.

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A California medical marijuana user—who is not a member of Congress—smokes marijuana at the Berkeley Patients Group.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Congress is probably the most likely place to harsh your mellow, but could some lawmakers be regular weed users?

Colorado Democrat Jared Polis, one of the leading advocates for federal marijuana legalization, estimates a handful of his colleagues use marijuana.

 

"I don't think more than five or 10 I would guess," he said at a National Cannabis Industry Association Capitol Hill briefing Thursday. "But I really wouldn't know because I haven't seen them use it. I would just be completely guessing."

In his remarks, prompted by a question from Yahoo's Chris Moody and captured here on video by PostTV, Polis went on to cite statistics on marijuana use to back up his estimate. He says the average age of members is 60, and if 5 percent of 60-year-olds use marijuana, it's likely the same in the House.

"We're pretty typical. People think, 'Oh, members of Congress are so different.' No, they're actually pretty normal," Polis said. "That's why when you hear about one who had an affair or something, well, if you take any group of 435 people, you're going to have a couple who commit affairs."

 

Well, we here at National Journal decided to crunch the numbers and see if, using Polis' reasoning, his estimate stacks up against the evidence.

In 2012, just 3.6 percent of adults 50 to 64 admitted to having used drugs (including others aside from marijuana) in the past month, according to a Health and Human Services survey. When it comes to marijuana, 7.3 percent of Americans 12 and older said they used it in the past month.

Adults 30 to 64 are the most likely to have used marijuana, a 2013 Gallup survey finds. But that doesn't mean they're currently using it. And while 44 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds admitted to having tried marijuana, just 5 percent say they regularly use it. For those 65 and older, 17 percent said they have tried it before, while just 1 percent still use it.

And as of January, the average age of House members was 57, according to the Congressional Research Service.

 

So using the Polis logic, anywhere from 1 to 5 percent of members could actually be using marijuana—meaning anywhere from four to 20 members. But it's still highly debatable whether members of Congress—the majority of whom are millionaires—are just like the rest of us.

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