SANDAG report finds more local arrestees using marijuana after legalization

The survey also found youths have changed their attitudes of pot about marijuana over the past decade and have become less concerned about any potential harmful effects, according to SANDAG


About two-thirds of local arrestees surveyed in 2019 said they were more likely to use marijuana now that it is legal, an increase of almost 10 percent from a few years ago, a recently released survey from the San Diego Association of Governments has found.

A marijuana leaf
A marijuana leaf on a plant at a cannabis grow in Gardena, Calif., in 2019.
(Associated Press)

According to the SANDAG report, about 57 percent of of arrestees in 2017 said they would use marijuana after it was legalized, while surveys in 2018 and 2019 found 66 percent said they would use it.

The 2019 survey was conducted with 283 adults and 74 juveniles.

Cynthia Burke, SANDAG’s director of research and program management, said the survey also found youths have changed their attitudes about marijuana over the past decade and have become less concerned about any potential harmful effects. In 2007, surveys found 42 percent of youths said marijuana could be extremely bad for someone, while only 17 percent thought the same in recent surveys, she said.

While youths reported they had tried alcohol before any drug in their past, the recent surveys showed 58 percent of young people said they tried marijuana first.

Burke said the survey also found that about 30 percent of arrestees of all ages thought marijuana was physically additive. When asked if as psychologically addictive, however, 42 percent of juveniles and 61 percent of adults answered yes.

Recreational use of marijuana was legalized in California following the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016. SANDAG began adding questions about marijuana use to its Substance Abuse Monitoring questionnaires administered to adults and juveniles booked into local jails following the change.

Burke said regardless of people’s views on recreational marijuana use, she believes people who voted for Proposition 64 did not intend for it to lead to an increase in youths using marijuana and believing the drug had no harmful effects. Surveys also have found youths said they use marijuana 15 days each month while youths who use alcohol drink only seven days a month, she said.

“They really think there’s no harm in it and they’re using it about every other day,” Burke said.

In other survey findings, 49 percent of adult arrestees thought marijuana could impact someone’s driving ability and 47 percent had driven under the influence of marijuana.
— Gary Warth is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune