If you live in a place like California, it might seem like everyone you know smokes weed. However, cannabis is popular not only in green states, but around the globe: According to the 2017 United Nations World Drug Report, at the very least 182,999,999 people worldwide consume cannabis. The report estimates that number could be even higher, however, peaking at nearly 238 million people worldwide, or about twice the population of Mexico.
These global cannabis consumers aren’t concentrated in just a few places, but spread out over at least the 135 countries (comprising 92 percent of the world population), which were involved in cultivating cannabis.
That said, some regions are are still home to heavier cannabis consumers than others are.
With 40 million cannabis consumers, or 22 percent of the worldwide total, North America came out on top, followed by Central and West Africa, where there are 32 million consumers. Western and Central Europe have about 23 million cannabis consumers, while North Africa has 6.3 million. And despite stereotypes about Jamaican ganja, the Caribbean has only about 610,000 cannabis consumers.
While cannabis is the most commonly used “drug,” it’s also the most commonly seized. Authorities seized six thousand tons of herb and 1,300 tons of resin between 2010 and 2015. In 2015 alone, 53 percent of the 2.4 million drug seizures were for cannabis. Weed busts took place in 164 out of the 168 countries analyzed in the report.
Nonetheless, while law enforcement spends time and resources on drug busts for a substance that’s never caused any mortalities, America leads the world in drug overdose deaths. According to the report, the United States saw 245.8 million overdose deaths in 2015 — a staggering number compared to the 39.6 million world average.
America’s opioid epidemic has taken lives across the nation — perhaps not surprising since Americans consume more opioids than any other country. Cannabis is a safer alternative to painkillers like oxycodone or fentanyl, and is also definitely safer than heroin when pain patients and others who are opioid dependent turn to the black market where purity and dosing are ambiguous. It’s commonly thought that legal cannabis can help solve America’s opioid crisis, given that medical marijuana states saw a 25 percent decrease in opioid overdose deaths, as compared to the rest of the country.