Trends in Attitudes of US 12th Graders Toward Legalization of Any Illegal Drugs

"• In 2018 for the first time in the history of the survey the majority of 12th grade students did not favor legally prohibiting marijuana use in public places. The proportion of 12th graders who favor legally prohibiting marijuana use in public places decreased by 2 percentage points to 48% in 2018, continuing a long decline since 2008, when 70% favored prohibition. The percentage favoring legal prohibitions against use in private was also at a historic low of 22% in 2018, down from 82% in 1990.

"• The majority of 12th graders agree that people should be prohibited by law from using illicit drugs other than marijuana in public. (The questions specified people age 18 or older; presumably proportions would be even higher for those under 18.) For example, in 2018 the percentages agreeing to prohibition are 60% for amphetamines or sedatives (barbiturates), 65% for LSD, and 75% for heroin. Even use in private is opposed by substantial proportions; for example, 42% believe that use in private of amphetamines or sedatives (barbiturates) should be illegal, while 44% believe the same for LSD, and 66% believe it about heroin use.

"• In 2018, 38% of 12th graders believe that cigarette smoking in “certain specified public places” should be prohibited by law. Were the question more specific as to the types of public places in which smoking might be prohibited (e.g., restaurants or hospitals), quite different results might have emerged.

"• Less than half (42%) of 12th graders in 2018 think that getting drunk in public should be prohibited.

"• For all drugs included in the question, fewer 12th graders believe that use in private settings should be illegal, as compared with use in public settings. This is particularly true for getting drunk in private (which only 20% think should be illegal vs. 42% for getting drunk in public) and for smoking marijuana in private (which only 22% think should be illegal vs. 48% for smoking marijuana in public places)."


Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., & Patrick, M. E. (2019). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2018: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Available at