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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Teen Marijuana Use Down Despite Greater Availability, Johns Hopkins Study Finds

Marijuana use among American high school students is significantly lower today than it was 15 years ago, despite the legalization in many states of marijuana for medical purposes, a move toward decriminalization of the drug and the approval of recreational use in a handful of places, new research suggests.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers say, however, that marijuana use is significantly greater than the use of other illegal drugs, with 40 percent of teens in 2013 saying they had smoked marijuana. That number was down from 47 percent in 1999 but up from 37 percent in 2009. By contrast, just 3 percent had ever tried methamphetamines in 2013 as compared to 9 percent in 1999.

The findings, published online this month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, also suggest that a gender gap in marijuana use — where boys outnumbered girls as users of the drug — is shrinking, with males and females now using marijuana at similar rates. And while White and Black teens once used marijuana at similar rates, now Blacks report using the drug more often.

Marijuana policy has undergone significant changes over the past 20 years. Since 1996, 34 states have passed legislation removing criminal sanctions for medical use of marijuana. Eleven states have passed laws decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, adding to nine that passed such laws in the late 1970s. Four states have passed laws allowing for the recreational use of marijuana for people over 21.

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