Study: One in Four 12th Graders More Likely to Use Marijuana If Legalized

Clubs and Organizations

June 6, 2018


Monitoring The Future Study Finds Percentage of 12th Graders Admitting They Would Use Marijuana Reaching Levels Never Before Seen in 43-Year History

[Alexandria, Va] - More 12th graders than ever admitted they would use marijuana if it were legal, according to new numbers from the largest drug use survey in the United States. Specifically, one in four 12th graders thought that they would try marijuana, or that their use would increase, if marijuana were legalized. Prevalence of annual marijuana use also rose by a significant 1.3 percentage points to 23.9% in 2017, based on data from 8th, 10th, and 12th grades combined.

The survey reported "a greater proportion of youth than ever predicted they would use marijuana if it were legally available. Historic highs over the 43 years of the study were reached in the percentage of 12th grade students who reported that they would try marijuana if it were legal (15.2%), as well as users who reported that they would use it more often than their current level of use (10.1%). The percentage who reported they would not use marijuana even if it were legal significantly declined to less than 50% for the first time ever over the 43-year life of the study (specifically, to 46.5%)."

Overall, the rate of 12th graders saying they would not use marijuana if it were legalized fell 30% in the last ten years. Additionally, the rate of 12th graders who said they would use more marijuana if it were legal increased by almost 100% in the past decade. These changes are also significant when comparing rates from 2016. Marijuana sales are now allowed in eight states and D.C.

"These findings fly in the face of the Big Marijuana argument that somehow fewer young people will use marijuana if it is legalized," said Dr. Kevin Sabet, founder and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. "These data are clear. As more states move to commercialize, legalize, and normalize marijuana - more young people are going to use today's super-strength drug."

The survey reported that "it is likely that the growing number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults plays a role in the increasing tolerance of marijuana use among 12th grade students, who may interpret increasing legalization as a sign that marijuana use is safe and state-sanctioned."

Interestingly, the survey also found that 17% of 12th graders today believe that their parents would not disapprove of marijuana use. This is almost double that of the 8% average from the late 1970's.

The 2017 Monitoring the Future survey, compiled by researchers at the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the benchmark for student drug use in the United States.

According to the survey, the combination of low levels of perceived risk when it comes to using marijuana and the low disapproval for regular use sets the stage for "potentially substantial" increases in the use of the substance in the future. In 2017 the proportion of 12th graders who favor legalization of marijuana was at the highest level ever recorded, at 49%.

"This survey confirms what public health advocates have long claimed: as more is done to make THC candies, cookies, sodas, concentrates look innocent and safe, young people are more attracted to them and hold favorable views of them," said Dr. Sabet. "In states that have loosened their marijuana laws youth use is steadily rising. This is a trend that will continue if we do not pump the brakes on this failed experiment."

About SAM

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is a nonpartisan, non-profit alliance of physicians, policy makers, prevention workers, treatment and recovery professionals, scientists, and other concerned citizens opposed to marijuana legalization who want health and scientific evidence to guide marijuana policies. SAM has affiliates in more than 30 states. For more information about marijuana use and its effects, visit http://www.learnaboutsam.org.