How do high school seniors get marijuana? Prevalence and sociodemographic differences


  • The most common way adolescents get marijuana is from friends (bought or shared).
  • Male students and students who use frequently are more likely to get marijuana in risky ways.
  • Adolescents infrequently get marijuana from medical marijuana prescriptions.
  • Demographic differences in getting marijuana can inform best prevention practices.


Efforts to understand how adolescents acquire marijuana will help to contextualize its use among youth. Little is known about ways of getting marijuana and how they differ between subgroups of adolescents. The present study sought to determine how adolescents get marijuana and if modes of access vary by sociodemographic characteristics.


Data were from the nationally representative Monitoring the Future study of 12th graders in the United States from 2012 to 2018 (N = 4262 students).

Participants used marijuana in the past 12 months and were asked how they got marijuana. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to predict modes of getting marijuana based on sex, race/ethnicity, urbanicity, parental education, and survey year. Cross-tabulation analyses compared how recent frequent and non-frequent use related to ways of getting marijuana.


The most endorsed methods of getting marijuana were given for free by friends, bought from friends, and bought from a drug dealer/stranger. Differences by sociodemographic subgroup and recent frequent use emerged, including for riskier modes of obtainment such as buying from a drug dealer/stranger (for male students, urban students, and recent frequent users).

Recent frequent users were more likely to endorse getting marijuana by nearly each method, except non-frequent users were more likely to be given marijuana for free by friends.


Understanding the prevalence of different modes of getting marijuana among adolescents and which subgroups are most susceptible to riskier means of getting marijuana will allow drug use prevention efforts to be tailored appropriately so as to maximize effectiveness.


Marijuana, Adolescent, Prevalence, Prescription, Drug dealer, Friend,