Teens may be more likely to use marijuana after legalization for adult recreational use

February 15, 2021

Teens may be more likely to use marijuana after legalization for adult recreational use

PISCATAWAY, NJ - Adolescents who live in California may be more likely to use marijuana since adult recreational marijuana use was legalized in 2016, according to a new report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

"The apparent increase in marijuana use among California adolescents after recreational marijuana legalization for adult use in 2016 is surprising given the steady downward trend in marijuana use during years before legalization," says lead researcher Mallie J. Paschall, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Berkeley, California.

Paschall and his colleagues analyzed data from over three million 7th, 9th, and 11th graders who participated in the California Healthy Kids Survey from 2010-2011 through 2018-2019 school years. The adolescents provided information on their grade, sex, ethnicity, race and lifetime and past-30-day marijuana use. The marijuana use question was updated in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 surveys to include the words "smoke, vape, eat, or drink," reflecting the wide variety of marijuana products now available.

The researchers observed significant increases in the prevalence of lifetime and past-30-day marijuana use among nearly all demographic groups from 2017-2018 to 2018-2019 school years, after legalization of adult recreational use: an 18% increase in the likelihood of lifetime use and a 23% increase in past-30-day use. These numbers may reflect greater use of vaping products, and the overall increase was even more likely among those in demographic groups with historically lower rates of marijuana use.

"I was somewhat surprised to see relatively greater increases in the prevalence of marijuana use among younger adolescents (7th graders) relative to 9th and 11th graders, among females versus males, among non-Hispanic versus Hispanic youth, and among Whites versus youth in other racial groups," says Paschall. "In other words, there were greater increases in marijuana use prevalence after recreational marijuana legalization among youth in 'low-risk' groups, which is concerning."

Paschall says he can only speculate as to the reason, but that the greater increases in these normally low-risk groups may be attributed to marijuana use becoming more normative due to legalization, along with relatively greater overall declines in marijuana use among youth in historically 'high-risk' groups during the study period.

The study also indicated greater increases in the frequency of past-30-day marijuana use among older adolescents, males, African American and Asian youth who were regular users. There were notable increases in marijuana use frequency among adolescents in 2018-19, which may reflect national increases in the use of vaping products.

"Recreational marijuana legalization may be contributing to an increase in marijuana use among adolescents in California, but we need to do further research to confirm this," says Paschall. "We also need to look more closely at what's happening at the local level, because there is a lot of variation in marijuana policies in communities across California and the United States. Also, we need to know more about how adolescents are getting marijuana and what forms of marijuana they are using, since there is such a great variety of cannabis products available."

The researchers suggest that recreational marijuana legalization may present increased opportunities for adolescents to obtain marijuana and that the increasing availability of non-smoking products such as edibles may prove appealing as well.

"I'm interested in whether recreational marijuana legalization for adult use may affect use among adolescents, possibly by changing norms regarding the acceptability of marijuana use, perceived harms of marijuana use, or availability or marijuana to youth," says Paschall.

Paschall and his colleagues also write that states and communities that have legalized adult recreational marijuana use and sales could benefit from implementing both stricter controls on the availability of marijuana to adolescents and evidence-based prevention programs.
-end-
By Kimberly Flynn


Paschall, M. J., García-Ramírez, G., & Grube, J. W. (2021). Recreational marijuana legalization and use among California adolescents: Findings from a statewide survey. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 82, 103-111. doi:10.15288/jsad.2021.82.103

To set up an interview with Mallie J. Paschall, please contact him at 510-883-5753 or paschall@prev.org.

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (jsad.com) is published by the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies (alcoholstudies.rutgers.edu) at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. It is the oldest substance-related journal published in the United States.

To learn about education and training opportunities for addiction counselors and others at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies, please visit https://education.alcoholstudies.rutgers.edu/education-training.

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs considers this press release to be in the public domain. Editors and journalists may publish this press release in print or electronic form without legal restriction. Please include proper attribution.

Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

Related Marijuana Articles from Brightsurf:

Teen boys link marijuana use with more, better sex
Teen-age boys exposed to pro-cannabis advertising and social media posts are more likely than female peers to associate marijuana use with improving sexual activity, new research from Washington State University suggests.

Legal marijuana may be slowing reductions in teen marijuana use, study says
A longitudinal study of more than 230 teens and young adults in Washington state finds that teens may be more likely to use marijuana following legalization - with the proliferation of stores and increasing adult use of the drug -- than they otherwise would have been.

Does using marijuana affect a person's risk of stroke?
The jury's still out on whether the use of marijuana may increase the risk of stroke.

Marijuana use among older adults in US
Cannabis use apparently continues to increase among older adults in the U.S. based on findings reported in this research letter.

Is it hemp or marijuana? New scanner gives instant answer
Hemp is technically legal in Texas, but proving that hemp is not marijuana can be a hurdle, requiring testing in a licensed laboratory.

Recreational marijuana availability in Oregon and use among adolescents
New research from the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation suggests that legalization and greater retail availability of recreational marijuana is positively associated with marijuana use among adolescents.

Marijuana detected in homicide victims nearly doubles
Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health assessed the time trends in alcohol and marijuana detected in homicide victims and found that the prevalence of marijuana almost doubled, increasing from 22 percent in 2004 to 42 percent in 2016.

Vaping of marijuana on the rise among teens
Findings from the 2019 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey demonstrate the appeal of vaping to teens, as seen in the increased prevalence of marijuana use as well as nicotine vaping.

Use changes after recreational marijuana legalization
How the legalization of recreational marijuana in some states was associated with changes inĀ marijuana use and cannabis use disorder compared to other states from 2008 to 2016 was the focus of this study.

Teen marijuana use may have next-generation effects
A new study by the University of Washington's Social Development Research Group shows how a parent's use of marijuana, past or present, can influence their child's substance use and well-being.

Read More: Marijuana News and Marijuana Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.