"Is Marijuana Even a Drug?" A Qualitative Study of How Teens View Marijuana Use and Why They Use It

J Psychoactive Drugs. Jul-Aug 2017;49(3):209-216. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2017.1290854. Epub 2017 Feb 26.


This qualitative study examines how youth in the San Francisco Bay Area perceive marijuana and their motives for using or not using marijuana. Current regular users were more likely to perceive marijuana smoking as an enjoyable activity, comparable to a hobby or sport. Current occasional users commonly reported smoking marijuana when it was offered to them, on special occasions, and sometimes as a result of not wanting to be left out. Most former regular users reported quitting marijuana use due to getting into trouble, being ordered into drug treatment and/or being drug tested. Former occasional users mostly reported that they did not like the somatic effects of marijuana and did not feel it enhanced their social interactions or activities. Teens who reported never having used marijuana did so out of concerns for their health. Except for never-users, marijuana was seen as safe to use. Teens mentioned the widespread use of marijuana by people they know and legalization for medical and recreational use as evidence that marijuana is not harmful. The findings suggest that normalization of marijuana use is taking place. Differences in motives for and against marijuana use should be taken into consideration when designing interventions and prevention messages.

Keywords: Adolescents; legalization; marijuana; motives for use; perceptions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Use / epidemiology
  • Marijuana Use / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • San Francisco / epidemiology