Trends in use of marijuana and attitudes toward marijuana among youth before and after decriminalization: the case of California 2007-2013

Int J Drug Policy. 2015 Apr;26(4):336-44. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.01.009. Epub 2015 Jan 14.


Background: This analysis examines decriminalization as a risk factor for future increases in youth marijuana acceptance and use. Specifically, we examine marijuana-related behaviors and attitudes of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in California as compared to other U.S. states during the years before and after California passed legislation in 2010 to decriminalize marijuana.

Methods: Data come from Monitoring the Future, an annual, nationally representative survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students.

Results: In 2012 and afterwards California 12th graders as compared to their peers in other states became (a) 25% more likely to have used marijuana in the past 30 days, (b) 20% less likely to perceive regular marijuana use as a great health risk, (c) 20% less likely to strongly disapprove of regular marijuana use, and (d) about 60% more likely to expect to be using marijuana five years in the future. Analysis of 10th graders raises the possibility that the findings among 12th graders may reflect a cohort effect that was set into place two years earlier.

Conclusion: These results provide empirical evidence to support concerns that decriminalization may be a risk factor for future increases in youth marijuana use and acceptance.

Keywords: Adolescent; Decriminalization; Marijuana.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude*
  • Behavior, Addictive
  • California
  • Crime / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Crime / trends
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / trends
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology
  • Marijuana Smoking / trends
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors