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Indicator 16: Students' Use of Marijuana
(Last Updated: March 2018)

In 2015, some 22 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, which was higher than the percentage reported in 1993 (18 percent) but not measurably different from the percentage reported in 2013.

The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) asked students in grades 9–12 whether they had used marijuana during the previous 30 days. Until 2011, students were also asked whether they had used marijuana on school property74 during the previous 30 days. Due to this change in the questionnaire, this indicator primarily discusses students' reports of marijuana use anywhere using data up to 2015 and then briefly discusses students' reports of marijuana use on school property using data up to 2011.

In 2015, some 22 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, which was higher than the percentage reported in 1993 (18 percent; the first year of data collection)75 but not measurably different from the percentage reported in 2013 (figure 16.1 and table 16.1). Specifically, in 2015 about 7 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported using marijuana 1 or 2 times during the previous 30 days, 10 percent reported using marijuana 3 to 39 times during the previous 30 days, and 4 percent reported using marijuana 40 or more times during the previous 30 days (table 16.2).


Figure 16.1. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by sex: Selected years, 1993 through 2015

Figure 16.1. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by sex: Selected years, 1993 through 2015

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 1993 through 2015.


In every survey year between 1993 and 2011, higher percentages of male students than of female students reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days; in 2013 and 2015, however, there were no measurable differences in the percentages reported by male and female students (figure 16.1 and table 16.1). In 2015, a higher percentage of males (5 percent) than of females (3 percent) reported using marijuana 40 or more times during the previous 30 days (figure 16.2 and table 16.2).


Figure 16.2. 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 sex: 2015

Figure 16.2. 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 sex: 2015

NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2015.


In 2015, some differences in the percentages of students who reported marijuana use were observed by race/ethnicity and grade level. The percentage of Asian students (8 percent) who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days was lower than the percentages reported by White students (20 percent), students of Two or more races (23 percent), Hispanic students (24 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native students (27 percent), and Black students (27 percent; figure 16.3 and table 16.1). The percentage for White students was also lower than the percentages for Hispanic and Black students. In addition, the percentage of students in 9th grade (15 percent) who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days was lower than the percentages of students in 10th grade (20 percent), 11th grade (25 percent), and 12th grade (28 percent) who reported doing so. The percentage for students in 10th grade was also lower than the percentages for students in 11th and 12th grade.


Figure 16.3. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by race/ethnicity: 2015

Figure 16.3. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, by race/ethnicity: 2015

NOTE: 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), 2015.


The 2015 YRBS added a new question to identify students' sexual orientation by asking students in grades 9–12 which of the following best described them—"heterosexual (straight)," "gay or lesbian," "bisexual," or "not sure."76 In 2015, a higher percentage of gay, lesbian, or bisexual students than of heterosexual students reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days (32 vs. 21 percent; table 16.3). The percentage who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days was higher for students who were not sure about their sexual orientation than for heterosexual students (26 vs. 21 percent).

In 2015, state-level data for students who reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days were available for 36 states and the District of Columbia (table 16.4). Among these jurisdictions, the percentages of students who reported using marijuana ranged from 12 percent in South Dakota to 29 percent in the District of Columbia.

Until 2011, data were also collected on students' marijuana use on school property during the previous 30 days. Some 6 percent of students reported using marijuana at least one time on school property in 2011; this was not measurably different from the percentage reported in 1993 (table 16.1). In 2011, about 3 percent of students reported using marijuana on school property 1 or 2 times during the previous 30 days, 2 percent reported using marijuana on school property 3 to 39 times during the previous 30 days, and 1 percent reported using marijuana on school property 40 or more times during the previous 30 days (table 16.2).


This indicator repeats information from the Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016 report, but the text has been revised to include additional breakouts that were previously included in a Spotlight feature. For more information: Tables 16.1, 16.2, 16.3, and 16.4, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016a), (http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2015/ss6506_updated.pdf), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016b), (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/ss/pdfs/ss6509.pdf).


74 In the question about using marijuana at school, "on school property" was not defined for survey respondents.
75 1991 was the first year of data collection for marijuana use anywhere and 1993 was the first year of data collection for marijuana use on school property.
76 In this indicator, students who identified as "gay or lesbian" or "bisexual" are discussed together as the "gay, lesbian, or bisexual" group. Although there are likely to be differences among students who identify with each of these orientations, small sample sizes preclude analysis for each of these groups separately. Students were not asked whether they identified as transgender on the YRBS.