Evidence for connections between prosecutor-reported marijuana case dispositions and community youth marijuana-related attitudes and behaviors.(Author abstract)(Survey)

This article examines relationships between local drug policy (as represented by prosecutor-reported case outcomes for first-offender juvenile marijuana possession cases) and youth self-reported marijuana use, perceived risk, and disapproval. Interviews with prosecutors and surveys of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students in the United States were conducted in 2000. Analyses include data from 97 prosecutors and students from 127 schools in 40 states. Results indicate significant relationships between local drug policy and youth marijuana use and attitudes. In general, more-severe dispositions are associated with less marijuana use, higher disapproval rates, and increased perceptions of great risk. Associations primarily appear to be specific to marijuana-related outcomes. Results are discussed within the framework of both deterrence and broader social norms regarding substance use. Keywords: marijuana; drug policy; prosecutor; prosecutorial discretion; juvenile