Marijuana Use

Publication Date:

Sep 10, 2018

Key facts about marijuana use

  • Marijuana use among high school students has fluctuated considerably over the last several decades. In 2017, 6 percent of eighth-grade students and 23 percent of twelfth-grade students reported using marijuana in the past 30 days.
  • Eighth-grade students whose parents did not complete high school were more than three times as likely as students whose parents completed college to have used marijuana in the past month (10 versus 3 percent, respectively).
  • Fewer students in twelfth grade who have college plans reported using marijuana in the past 30 days than students who have no college plans (22 versus 27 percent, respectively).

Trends in marijuana use

Marijuana use among twelfth-grade students has fluctuated considerably over the last several decades. In 1980, 34 percent had used marijuana in the month preceding the survey, but that proportion had decreased by almost two-thirds by 1992, to 12 percent. From 1992 to 1997, the rate of current marijuana users doubled to 24 percent, then decreased until 2006, to 18 percent. The proportion of twelfth-graders who used marijuana in the past month then increased again until 2012, to 23 percent. Since then, the rate has fluctuated slightly, but was at 23 percent as of 2017 (Appendix 1).

Trends for younger students are similar. Among tenth-graders, current marijuana use increased during the 1990s, from 8 percent of students in 1992 to 21 percent in 1997, before leveling off until 2001 at around 19 percent. Prevalence of current use decreased from 2001 to 2008, from 20 to 14 percent, but then increased until 2013, to 18 percent. Use declined again to 14 percent in 2016, but rose slightly to 16 percent in 2017. Among eighth-graders, current use reached a peak at 11 percent in 1996, but then declined from 1996 to 2007, to 6 percent. There was then a slight rise at the end of the decade, to 8 percent in 2010. Current marijuana use among eighth-graders has since declined to 6 percent in 2017 (Appendix 1).

More than twice as many students report having used marijuana at some point in their lives as those who report use in the last month. In 2017, 14 percent of eighth-graders, 31 percent of tenth-graders, and 45 percent of twelfth-graders reported having used marijuana at least once in their lifetime.[1]

Differences by parental education

In 2017, eighth-grade students whose parents did not complete high school were more than three times as likely as students whose parents completed college to have used marijuana in the past month (10 versus 3 percent, respectively). Among tenth-graders, the corresponding figures were 19 and 14 percent, respectively. Among twelfth-graders, students with parents who had no high school diploma were only slightly more likely to use marijuana than were their peers with parents who completed college (22 versus 21 percent, respectively) (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin[2]

Among eighth-graders in 2017, non-Hispanic white students were less likely than non-Hispanic black or Hispanic students to have used marijuana in the past month (4 percent, compared with 7 percent for both non-Hispanic black and Hispanic students). However, at tenth grade, all groups had the same usage rates (15 percent). At twelfth grade, non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic students also had similar usage rates (22, 24, and 23 percent, respectively) (Appendix 1).

Differences by college plans

Students who plan to complete four years of college are less likely than those who do not have such plans to have used marijuana in the past month. For example, in 2017, eighth-graders without college plans were nearly three times more likely than other eighth-graders to have used marijuana in the past month (13 and 5 percent, respectively). Additionally, tenth-graders without college plans were nearly twice as likely to have used marijuana in the past month (25 versus 14 percent, respectively). At twelfth grade, differences by college plans—while not as large as in eighth or tenth grade—were still pronounced (27 percent for students with college plans, versus 22 percent for students without plans) (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

NOTE: Estimates of drug use from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, used to generate these state-level estimates, are generally lower than estimates generated by the Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF). The MTF was the source of the national estimates presented in this indicator, and users should not make direct comparisons of estimates made from the two sources. For information on methodological differences in the surveys that may be causing these differences in estimates, see:

Harrison, L. D. (2001). Understanding the differences in youth drug prevalence rates produced by the MTF, NHSDA, and YRBS studies. Journal of Drug Issues, 31(3), 665–694.

International estimates

International estimates of lifetime, past year, and 30-day marijuana use are available from the European School Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) 2015 report, available at:

http://www.espad.org/sites/espad.org/files/ESPAD_report_2015.pdf.

Data and appendices

Data sources

Data for 1975–2017: Johnston, L. D., Miech, R. A., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2018). Demographic subgroup trends among adolescents in the use of various licit and illicit drugs, 1975–2017 (Monitoring the Future Occasional Paper No. 90). Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/occpapers/mtf-occ90.pdf (Tables 13, 14, and 15).

Raw data source

Monitoring the Future.
http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/

Appendix

Appendix 1. Among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-Grade Students, Percentage Reporting Marijuana Use in the Past Thirty Days: Select Years, 1975–2017

Background

Definition

Students are considered current marijuana users if they answer “one or more times” to the question, “On how many occasions (if any) have you used marijuana during the last 30 days?” Dropouts and students who were absent on the day of the survey are not included in the results. For detailed analysis of how those omissions may affect results, see Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., et al. (2016). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2016: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-vol1_2016.pdf (Appendix A).

Endnotes

[1] Johnston, L. D., Miech, R. A., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2018). Demographic subgroup trends among adolescents in the use of various licit and illicit drugs, 1975–2017 (Monitoring the Future Occasional Paper No. 90). Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/occpapers/mtf-occ90.pdf (Tables 13, 14, and 15).

[2] To derive percentages for each racial/ethnic subgroup, data for the specified year and the previous year have been combined to provide more stable estimates. Estimates for white and black youth exclude Hispanic youth and youth of two or more races. Hispanic youth include persons identifying as Mexican American or Chicano, Cuban American, Puerto Rican, or Other Hispanic or Latino, and no other racial/ethnic group.