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

AbstractBackground 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.