2017 Case Study Competition

The Health Issue: Marijuana

In 2015, 22.2 million Americans 12 years of age and older reported they had used marijuana within the past month, making marijuana the most commonly used [federally] illicit drug in the United States (1). Marijuana is a substance compounded from the dry leaves of the Cannabis septiva plant and can be smoked, inhaled, or ingested (in food or beverages).

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active component in marijuana which causes the psychogenic effects of euphoria and increased sensory perception (2). While the use of marijuana is linked to increased alcohol-related abuses, evidence suggests that most marijuana users do not go on to use “harder” illicit drugs (3). Nevertheless, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug (which is a “drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”) and is illegal under federal law (4).

Many people are unaware of the harmful effects of marijuana use, and are in support of its legalization (5). So far, a total of 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use only and another 8 states have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use (6). Several other states have been fighting over whether marijuana should be legalized for either medical use only or for both medical and recreational use (7).

The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) that examines substance use, abuse, and dependence among Americans 12 years and older found that marijuana is the most commonly used drug reported by individuals who are using an illicit drug for the first time (8). Although daily marijuana use was stable or declined between the years 2013 and 2015 for 12th graders and full time college students, daily marijuana use has steadily increased for individuals who were either 12th graders or full-time college students since 2015 (9).

Along with the increased marijuana use among youth, the proportion of 18-year-olds who disapproved of smoking marijuana regularly decreased from 80.3 percent in 2007 to 70.7 percent in 2015 (9), indicating that an increased number of 18-year-olds accepted marijuana use.

The declining perception of marijuana as harmful coupled with the increased regular use of marijuana is concerning in terms of associated health and safety risks. In 2011, a larger percentage of high school seniors reported they had driven after using marijuana or rode with a driver who had used marijuana (23.4%) than seniors who had reported they had driven after consuming alcohol or had ridden with a driver who had used alcohol (19.2%) (9).

2017 Student Case Study

Presented in Denver