Attitudes of US 12th Graders Toward Legalization of Marijuana, 2013

"• Table 8-8 lists the proportions of 12th graders in 2013 who favor various legal consequences for marijuana use: making it entirely legal (42%), a minor violation like a parking ticket but not a crime (25%), or a crime (21%). The remaining 13% said they 'don’t know.' It is noteworthy just how variable attitudes about this contentious issue are.
"• Asked whether they thought it should be legal to sell marijuana if it were legal to use it, about three in five (61%) said 'yes.' However, about 85% of those answering 'yes' (52% of all respondents) would permit sale only to adults. A small minority (9%) favored the sale to anyone, regardless of age, while 29% said that sale should not be legal even if use were made legal, and 10% said they 'don’t know.' Thus, while the majority subscribe to the idea of legal sale, if use is allowed, the great majority agree with the notion that sale to underage people should not be legal.
"• Most 12th graders felt that they would be little affected personally by the legalization of either the sale or the use of marijuana. Over half (56%) of the respondents said that they would not use the drug even if it were legal to buy and use, while others indicated they would use it about as often as they do now (15%) or less often (1.5%). Only 9% said they would use it more often than they do at present, while 10% thought they would try it. Another 9% said they did not know how their behavior would be affected if marijuana were legalized. Still, this amounts to 19% of all seniors, or about one in five, who thought that they would try marijuana, or that their use would increase, if marijuana were legalized.
"A study of the effects of decriminalization by several states during the late 1970s found no evidence of any impact on the use of marijuana among young people, nor on attitudes and beliefs concerning its use.88 However, it should be noted that decriminalization falls well short of the full legalization posited in the questions here. Moreover, the situation today is very different from the one in the late 1970s, with more peer disapproval and more rigorous enforcement of drug laws, at least until very recently. Some recent studies suggest that there might be an impact of decriminalization, because 'youths living in decriminalized states are significantly more likely to report currently using marijuana.'89 As more states adopt decriminalization or full legalization for adults, (as occurred in 2012 in Colorado and the state of Washington), it seems quite possible that attitudes about and use of marijuana will change. Declines in perceived risk and disapproval of marijuana would seem the most likely attitudinal changes, and such changes may well lead to increased use among youth."

"89: Chaloupka, F. J., Pacula, R. L., Farrelly, M. C., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., & Bray, J. W. (February 1999). Do higher cigarette prices encourage youth to use marijuana? (NBER Working Paper No. 6939). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research."


Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E. & Miech, R. A. (2014). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2013: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, pp. 400-401.