Watch CBS News

Cannabis is in and alcohol is out. Is Gen Z driving the change in preference?

How Gen Z is driving the rise in marijuana use
How Gen Z is driving the rise in popularity of recreational marijuana 03:35

With recreational marijuana now legal in 24 states, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is moving to reclassify the drug to a less dangerous category under the Controlled Substances Act.

This comes as daily marijuana users now outnumber daily drinkers for the first time ever, according to a new report from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

The change in preference is largely being driven by young people. Of people aged 18 to 24, 69% prefer marijuana to alcohol, according to a 2022 survey by New Frontier Data, a cannabis research firm.

Work 'N' Roll, a shared workspace in downtown New York City, is among the organizations hoping to capitalize on the trend among young workers. For as little as $15, guests can toke while they type.

"Here we smoke, because it enhances our work. That's our secret sauce," Matthew Everett, a Work 'N' Roll patron, said.

"I transitioned over into cannabis cause I saw that there's limitless possibilities with the flavors," he added. "And I found like, hey, I don't have a hangover the next day, too."

Marijuana sales among Gen Z women in particular have more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020, according to Headset, a cannabis analytics firm.

At Work 'N' Roll, alcohol is prohibited, but it's perfectly fine to bring your own cannabis or have it delivered to your door.

But not everyone sees the uptick in marijuana use as positive, including addiction psychiatrist Colin Reiff.

Reiff points to a recent National Institute of Health study that associates schizophrenia with excessive cannabis use among some young people, especially young men, at an age when their brains are still maturing.

"The legalized age for cannabis should be around 33 years old, when people are outside the window of developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and a lot of other things," Reiff said. "Or most certainly it should be after 26, once the prefrontal cortex is done developing."

Cannabis has also become more potent over the years. The average level of THC, the main compound in marijuana that triggers its psychoactive effects, jumped from 4% in 1995 to more than 15% in 2021, a four-fold increase, according to the latest figures from the University of Mississippi's potency monitoring project. 

But for Everett, those numbers don't tell the whole story.

"Over time, as I started educating my parents more, they started to understand that cannabis was less destructive to my lifestyle than alcohol, and I even got them to try cannabis," Everett said.

When asked how that went, Everett said, "They enjoyed it. My mom, she had cancer and it helped to alleviate some of her symptoms, and for my dad's part, he thought it was pretty fun."

For Golda Moldavsky and Ellis Sudak, two other Work 'N' Roll patrons in their twenties, alcohol just isn't missed.

"I never thought about it not being here, honestly," Moldavsky said.

"I don't miss it," Sudak said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.