Does heavy adolescent marijuana use lead to criminal involvement in adulthood? Evidence from a multiwave longitudinal study of urban African Americans

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Nov 1;112(1-2):117-25. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.05.018. Epub 2010 Jul 3.


While marijuana use is common during adolescence, it can have adverse long-term consequences, with serious criminal involvement being one of them. In this study, we utilize longitudinal data from the Woodlawn Study of a community cohort of urban African Americans (N=702) to examine the effects of heavy adolescent marijuana use (20 or more times) on adult criminal involvement, including perpetration of drug, property and violent crime, as well as being arrested and incarcerated. Utilizing propensity score matching to take into account the shared risk factors between drug use and crime, regression analyses on the matched samples show that heavy adolescent marijuana use may lead to drug and property crime and criminal justice system interactions, but not violent crime. The significant associations of early heavy marijuana use with school dropout and the progression to cocaine and/or heroin use only partially account for these findings. Results suggest that the prevention of heavy marijuana use among adolescents could potentially reduce the perpetration of drug and property crime in adulthood, as well as the burden on the criminal justice system, but would have little effect on violent crime.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders
  • Cohort Studies
  • Crime*
  • Female
  • Heroin Dependence
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse*
  • Marijuana Smoking*
  • Risk Factors
  • Student Dropouts
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Unemployment
  • Urban Population
  • Violence