State of transition: Marijuana use among young adults in the San Francisco Bay Area

Prev Med. 2016 Sep;90:11-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.06.025. Epub 2016 Jun 23.


Background: California may vote on marijuana legalization in 2016. Young adults have the highest rates of marijuana use, but little is known about the correlates of use in this age group, including factors that may be affected by policy change. We investigated whether there are differences in marijuana use by sociodemographic characteristics, psychological distress, loneliness and social support, controlling for risk factors such as alcohol and cigarette use as well as perceived harm of marijuana.

Methods: Bivariate and multivariable analysis of past 30day marijuana use using the 2014 San Francisco Bay Area Young Adult Health Survey, a probabilistic multi-mode survey of (N=1324) young adults (aged 18-26years) residing in Alameda and San Francisco Counties, stratified by race/ethnicity.

Results: 291 (27%) sample participants reported current marijuana use. Compared to non-Hispanic Whites (referent) Asian/Pacific Islander respondents were less likely to use marijuana (AOR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.22-0.80) while multiracial participants were twice as likely (AOR, 2.27; 95% CI, 1.06-4.85). Psychological distress was not related to marijuana use, but social support (AOR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.08-1.88) and loneliness (AOR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.09-1.86) were. Perceived harm of marijuana was inversely related to marijuana use (AOR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.51-0.70), while smoking cigarettes (AOR, 3.95; 95% CI, 2.28-6.84) and binge drinking (AOR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.03-1.24) were positively related.

Conclusions: Legalization policies should include public education campaigns addressing potential harms of marijuana use particularly targeting multiracial young adults who also engage in other risk behaviors, such as cigarette smoking and binge drinking.

Keywords: Demographic; Factors; Health behavior; Health policy; Illicit drugs; Legalization; Psychological; Social support; Stress; Tobacco use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Binge Drinking
  • Cannabis*
  • Cigarette Smoking / psychology
  • Continental Population Groups
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Loneliness
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / ethnology*
  • Risk Factors
  • San Francisco / epidemiology
  • San Francisco / ethnology
  • Social Support
  • Young Adult