The recent UN report on Icelanders and cannabis use may have been based on a misunderstanding of the data: Icelanders do not lead the world in cannabis use, but they do lead Scandinavia.
According to the UN findings, approximately 18.3% of Icelanders aged 15-65 smoke cannabis, making Iceland the country with the highest per capita percentage for cannabis use in the world. However, this figure was likely the result of misunderstanding locally-collected data.
A report from the Directorate of Health done in 2012, from which the UN drew their conclusions, does show that the percentage of Icelanders who have tried cannabis at least once in their lives has increased – from 24.7% in 2004 to 35.9% in 2012. This 35.9% who had tried cannabis once in their lives were then asked if they had tried it at least once in the 12 months previous. Of those, 81.7% said they had not.
This result led the UN study to conclude that 18.3% of Icelanders as a whole had smoked cannabis in 2012. In fact, the correct math would put the number of Icelanders who tried cannabis that year at 6.6%, taking Iceland down from its number one slot for cannabis use to the 29th position.
While 6.6% is still much lower than 18.3%, it still puts Iceland in the number one position amongst Scandinavian countries. 5.4% of Danes, 3.8% of Norwegians, and 3.0% of Swedes smoke cannabis, according to the UN report. Iceland was also in the number one spot for cannabis use amongst Scandinavian countries in 2011.