It is undisputed that marijuana is and has been widely available
throughout the United States since the 1970s. Reports cited
above indicate that over the last 20 years there was been
a minimum of 8,000 mt or 17.6 million pounds of marijuana
available annually for US consumers.
The 2003 Library of Congress report presents data from a
2001 National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) of the National Drug
Intelligence Committee (NDIC)(22) which reports:
"that 96.9 percent of state and local law enforcement
agencies nationwide describe the availability of marijuana
as high or medium; only 1.8 percent describes it as low.
From region to region, the proportions of agencies reporting
high or medium availability were very similar and ranged
only from 98.9 percent in the Mid-Atlantic region to 91.6
percent in the Florida/Caribbean"(23)
Table 6 presents
data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (formerly
the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse) on the availability
of marijuana from 1991 through 2005, by age group. On a percentage
basis this table indicates how many people reported that marijuana
was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to acquire.
During this period, in an average year 54.81% of 12 to 17
year olds reported that marijuana was easy to get. Marijuana
was most available to 18 to 25 year olds, 77.45% of which
reported it was easy to get in an average year. Of 25 to 34
year olds in an average year 67.47% found marijuana easy to
get, while only 52.24% of those 35 and over found marijuana
easy to acquire in an average year.
Overall, from 1991 to 2005 in an average year 58.44% of the
public found marijuana readily available. Over the last several
years the percentage of the 12 to 17 year old age group finding
marijuana easy to get has declined, from 57.9% in 1997 to
50.9% in 2005. However, during the same period availability
to 18 to 25 year olds has remained essentially unchanged,
77% in 1997 to 76.5% in 2005.
Monitoring the Future (MTF) is an annual survey conducted
by researchers at the University of Michigan, and it has collected
data on the availability of marijuana to 8th, 10th, and 12th
grade students. (See Table
7.) The MTF data also reports declining availability of
marijuana to 8th, 10th, and 12th graders over the last 10
years. Among 8th graders the percentage reporting marijuana
was easy to acquire has declined from 54% in 1997 to 40% in
2006, while among 10th graders this percentage has declined
from 80% in 1997 to 70% in 2006. Among 12th graders this percentage
has declined from 89% to 85% in this same period.
Two trends in the MTF data, though, remain unchanged over
the years. First of all, as students enter 10th and 12th grade
more and more of them find marijuana easy to acquire. Second,
from 1975 to the present at least 4 out of 5 high school seniors
report that marijuana is fairly easy or very easy to get.
Regardless of annual changes in this survey data, since 1992
these surveys report that at least 2 out of 5 eighth grade
students, 2 out of 3 tenth grade students, and 4 out of 5
high school seniors find marijuana widely available.
One of the reasons marijuana is so widely available to high
school students is that many students sell marijuana to one
another. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in addition
to drug use and availability, also tracks the prevalence of
individuals who sell drugs. In the 15 years from 1991 to 2005
the number of 12 to 17 year olds who have sold drugs in the
last year has increased 90%, from 429,169 in 1991 to 814,924
in 2005, reaching its greatest level in 2002 at 1,080,549.
(See Table 8.)
While these figures indicate sales of any illicit drug there
is a strong likelihood, given marijuana's widespread popularity
and overall availability, that most of this sales activity
involves marijuana. Overall, the number of individuals of
any age who reported drug selling activity doubled from 1991
to 2005. The number of individuals increased during this time
from 1,783,863 in 1991 to 4,535,825 in 2005, and the corresponding
percentage increased from .9% to 1.9%.
Data on the extent of marijuana use by students and other
age groups will be reviewed in greater detail below. However,
a comparison of the number of monthly users of marijuana between
the ages of 12 and 17 with the number of drug sellers in the
same age group reveals a significant characteristic which
might explain the persistent prevalence of adolescent marijuana
According to the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
there are 1,728,265 monthly users of marijuana in this important
age group of 12 to 17 year olds. The number of adolescents
in this group who have sold drugs represents almost half of
the number who have used marijuana in the last month: 814,
924 or 47%. On a percentage basis, 6.8% of adolescents report
using marijuana in the last month and 3.2% of adolescents
report selling drugs in the last year. These figures suggest
that teenage drug sales is one of the key factors that explain
both the widespread availability and usage of marijuana to
middle and high school students.