Abstract: The Interplay of Social, Normative, and Legal Marijuana Environments and Young Adult Marijuana Use (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

373 The Interplay of Social, Normative, and Legal Marijuana Environments and Young Adult Marijuana Use

Thursday, May 30, 2019
Seacliff C (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Sabrina Oesterle, PhD, Research Associate Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Katarina Guttmannova, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Martie L. Skinner, PhD, Research Scientist, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Margaret Kuklinski, PhD, Research Scientist, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Introduction: The normative and legal environment around marijuana use in the U.S. is becoming more permissive, raising concern that youth and young adult marijuana and other drug use and associated consequences will increase. However, existing research on marijuana decriminalization and legalization has yielded mixed findings. This may be due in part to a narrow definition of marijuana environment based on laws and policies alone, ignoring the strong norms against marijuana use that may exist in settings where marijuana is legal and vice versa. To understand the permissiveness of young adults' marijuana environments in a more comprehensive way, we examined how marijuana use norms and behaviors in multiple social contexts (e.g., peers, family, and community) interplay with the legal marijuana context to influence young adult marijuana use.

Methods: Data came from the community-randomized trial of the Communities That Care prevention system conducted in 24 communities in 7 states and the panel of respondents who grew up in control communities. We employed latent class analysis to examine differences in the permissiveness of respondents’ marijuana environments at age 21 (2014) based on several indicators: respondents' perceptions of peer, family, and community approval of marijuana use; peer, parent, and partner marijuana use; and marijuana availability; and also the marijuana legal status in respondents’ state of residence (legal medical and nonmedical, legal medical only, decriminalized, or illegal marijuana use). Analyses also examined the relation between marijuana environment and marijuana use at age 21.

Results: Most respondents lived in environments with low (38%) or moderate (35%) marijuana permissiveness while 15% lived in a highly permissive context. A small proportion (12%) lived in a normatively but not legally permissive environment. The majority (65%) in this type of context resided in a state where marijuana was illegal, but marijuana norms among peers and partners were highly permissive and nearly all (98%) perceived marijuana as very easy to get. Permissiveness of marijuana environment was strongly associated with marijuana use. Only 5% of those in the low permissiveness context had used marijuana in the last year compared to 40% in the moderately and 76% in the mixed/highly permissive environment, even though marijuana was legal only in the highly permissive context.

Conclusions: Norms toward marijuana use are a relevant target for intervention as young adults' normative contexts can be highly permissive even in states where marijuana is illegal and those embedded in more permissive marijuana environments are at higher risk for marijuana use.