How Many Members of Congress Use Marijuana?

Rep. Jared Polis has a guess.

Medicinal marijuana user Dave Karp smokes marijuana at the Berkeley Patients Group March 25, 2010 in Berkeley, California.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
March 13, 2014, 11:27 a.m.

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.

What We're Following See More »
HE ‘WILL NEVER BE PRESIDENT’
Warren Goes After Trump Yet Again
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

When it comes to name-calling among America's upper echelon of politicians, there may be perhaps no greater spat than the one currently going on between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump. While receiving an award Tuesday night, she continued a months-long feud with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who probably doesn't know three things about Dodd-Frank, she said he "will NEVER be president of the United States," according to her prepared remarks."We don't know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims." It follows a long-line of Warren attacks over Twitter, Facebook and in interviews that Trump is a sexist, racist, narcissistic loser. In reply, Trump has called Warren either "goofy" or "the Indian"—referring to her controversial assertion of her Native American heritage. 

FIRST CHANGE IN FOUR DECADES
Congress Passes Chemical Regulations Overhaul
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The House on Tuesday voted 403-12 "to pass an overhaul to the nation’s chemical safety standards for the first time in four decades. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aims to answer years of complaints that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the necessary authority to oversee and control the thousands of chemicals being produced and sold in the United States. It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities, in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with."

Source:
NO MORE INDEPENDENT VOTERS?
GOP Could Double Number of Early Primaries
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Leaders of the Republican Party have begun internal deliberations over making fundamental changes to the way its presidential nominees are chosen, a recognition that the chaotic process that played out this year is seriously flawed and helped exacerbate tensions within the party." Among the possible changes: forbidding independent voters to cast ballots in Republican primaries, and "doubling the number of early states to eight."

Source:
LEVERAGE
Kasich Tells His Delegates to Remain Pledged to Him
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."

Source:
EFFECTIVE NEXT MONTH
House GOP Changes Rules for Spending Measures
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Speaker Paul Ryan is changing the rules of how the House will consider spending measures to try to prevent Democrats from offering surprise amendments that have recently put the GOP on defense. ... Ryan announced at a House GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning that members will now have to submit their amendments ahead of time so that they are pre-printed in the Congressional Record, according to leadership aides." The change will take effect after the Memorial Day recess.

Source:
×