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Marijuana use up among juveniles in San Diego County

More than half of the youth booked into Juvenile Hall in San Diego County tested positive for marijuana, the highest rate seen in 14 years, according to a new report released by SANDAG. Fifty-three percent tested positive in 2013, up from 42 percent in 2000.

The study, “2013 Juvenile Arrestee Drug Use in the San Diego Region,” included the following findings:

• Nine out of every ten youth (90%) reported they had tried marijuana. The average age of first use was just over 12.
• Almost two-thirds (62%) said marijuana was the first drug they had tried, up from 35 percent in 2009.
• Almost nine in ten (88%) said it was “very easy” or “easy” to obtain marijuana.
• Only 16 percent of marijuana users perceive its use as “very bad” or “bad” for them, compared to 34 percent for alcohol and 58 percent for tobacco.
• Of those who tested positive for marijuana, 58 percent said that they had ridden in a car driven by someone under the influence, 42 percent said they had gone to school drunk or high, and 41 percent said that they had gotten into a physical fight while drunk or high.

“Marijuana is definitely gaining in popularity among youth in this region and nationwide,” SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Director Dr. Cynthia Burke said. “At the same time, there is a growing perception among young people that the drug does not pose significant risks.”
As part of the study, a total of 136 youth were interviewed at Juvenile Hall within 48 hours of their arrest. Ninety-nine percent of them (134) provided a urine sample for drug testing. The research, part of the locally-funded Substance Abuse Monitoring program, includes results of urinalysis trends over time, as well as perceived risk and availability of different drugs.

The complete report is available at A Criminal Justice Flash summarizing wider research on marijuana use among youth also is available via

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For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or