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Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

Marijuana Use and Illegal Drug Availability

(Last Updated: May 2021)
This indicator also appears under School Crime and Safety.

In 2019, about 22 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported that illegal drugs were offered, sold, or given to them on school property during the previous 12 months.

This indicator uses data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) to examine the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported they had used marijuana during the previous 30 days. Adolescent marijuana use has been associated with lower academic performance1,2 and a higher risk of dropping out of high school.3 Considering the school context directly, this indicator then examines the percentage of students who reported they had been offered, sold, or given an illegal drug on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey.

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Figure 1. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by sex: Selected years, 2009 through 2019
Figure 1. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by sex: Selected years, 2009 through 2019

NOTE: Estimates do not include the use of synthetic marijuana.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2009 through 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 232.40.

Figure 2. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by race/ethnicity and grade: 2019
Figure 2.  Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by race/ethnicity and grade: 2019

!Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

NOTE: Estimates do not include the use of synthetic marijuana. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, figures are based on unrounded percentages.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 232.40.

Figure 3. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by number of times and sexual identity: 2019
Figure 3. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by number of times and sexual identity: 2019

!Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

NOTE: Estimates do not include the use of synthetic marijuana. Students were asked which of the following—“heterosexual (straight),” “gay or lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “not sure”—best described them. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, figures are based on unrounded percentages.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 232.50.

Figure 4. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property during the previous 12 months, by sex: Selected years, 2009 through 2019
Figure 4. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property during the previous 12 months, by sex: Selected years, 2009 through 2019

NOTE: Students were asked if anyone offered, sold, or gave them an illegal drug on school property during the previous 12 months. “On school property” was not defined for respondents.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2009 through 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 232.70.

Figure 5. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property during the previous 12 months, by selected student characteristics: 2019
Figure 5.  Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property during the previous 12 months, by selected student characteristics: 2019

!Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

1 Students were asked which of the following—“heterosexual (straight),” “gay or lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “not sure”—best described them.

NOTE: Students were asked if anyone offered, sold, or gave them an illegal drug on school property during the previous 12 months. “On school property” was not defined for respondents. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 232.70.


1 Meier, M.H., Hill, M.L., Small, P.J., and Luthar, S.S. (2015). Associations of Adolescent Cannabis Use With Academic Performance and Mental Health: A Longitudinal Study of Upper Middle Class Youth. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 156: 207–212. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871615016580.

2 Pardini, D., White, H.R., Xiong, S., Bechtold, J., Chung, T., Loeber, R., and Hipwell, A. (2015). Unfazed or Dazed and Confused: Does Early Adolescent Marijuana Use Cause Sustained Impairments in Attention and Academic Functioning? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43(7): 1203–1217. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10802-015-0012-0.

3 Bray, J.W., Zarkin, G.A., Ringwalt, C., and Qi, J. (2000). The Relationship Between Marijuana Initiation and Dropping Out of High School. Health Economics, 9(1): 9–18. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/(SICI)1099-1050(200001)9:1%3C9::AID-HEC471%3E3.0.CO;2-Z.

4 U.S. total data are representative of all public and private school students in grades 9–12 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. U.S. total data were collected through a separate national survey rather than being aggregated from state-level data. All discussions in this indicator, except those at the state level, were based on data from the national survey.

5 In 2019, state-level data on students’ marijuana use were available for 44 states and the District of Columbia. For detailed state-level data on the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least 1 time during the previous 30 days, see the table on current marijuana use for all locations in the YRBSS Youth Online Data Analysis Tool.

6 Since 2015, the YRBSS has included a question on students’ sexual identity by asking students in grades 9–12 which of the following best described them—“heterosexual (straight),” “gay or lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “not sure.” In this indicator, students who identified as “gay or lesbian” or “bisexual” are discussed together as the “gay, lesbian, or bisexual” group. Students were not asked whether they identified as transgender in the YRBSS.

7 “On school property” was not defined for survey respondents.

8 In 2019, state-level data on illegal drug availabilities were available for 36 states. For detailed state-level data on the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported being offered, sold, or given an illegal drug on school property during the 12 months preceding the survey, see the table on illegal drugs on school property for all locations in the YRBSS Youth Online Data Analysis Tool.

Supplemental Information

Table 232.40 (Digest 2020): Percentage of students in grades 9-12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by location and selected student characteristics: Selected years, 1993 through 2019;
Table 232.50 (Digest 2020): Percentage distribution of students in grades 9-12, by number of times they reported using marijuana anywhere during the previous 30 days and selected student characteristics: Selected years, 2013 through 2019;
Table 232.70 (Digest 2020): Percentage of students in grades 9-12 who reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property during the previous 12 months, by selected student characteristics: Selected years, 1993 through 2019
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Previous versions of this indicator available in the Indicators of School Crime and Safety reports.
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