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Data on marijuana use in Alaska and the U.S.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health has created graphs to help Alaskans better understand marijuana use among adults, pregnant women, and youth, as well as perceptions linked with marijuana use. Graphs at the end of this website focus on medical marijuana use.

Note: All trends noting statistical significance in this report are at the α=0.05 level. For other trends, tests of statistical significance could not be conducted because raw data were not accessible.

National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH): Marijuana use and perceptions in Alaska, 2008–2014

Data for this section were obtained from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website.

Among Alaska adults ages 18 and older during 2008–2009 to 2012–2013, there was a statistically significant decrease in the perception of great risk of monthly marijuana use. There were no statistically significant trends in monthly or yearly use of marijuana or first use during the year before the survey. In the 2013–2014 surveys, about 19% of adults perceived great risk of smoking marijuana once per month, about 20% reported using marijuana in the last year, about 12% reported use in the past month, and about 2% used marijuana for the first time in the past year. First use of marijuana refers to the estimated percentage of adults who first used marijuana during the past 12 months. (Figure 1.1)

Figure 1.1: Marijuana use and perceptions among adults (ages 18 and older), NSDUH 2008–2014, Alaska

Marijuana use in the past year has consistently been highest among 18- to 25-year-olds, with no apparent increasing or decreasing trend since the 2008–2009 surveys. No test of statistical significance was conducted for the observed increase in use among adults ages 26 and older or for trends among the other age groups. In the 2013–2014 surveys, about 17% of respondents ages 12–17, 36% of those ages 18–25, and 17% of those ages 26 and older reported marijuana use in the past year. (Figure 1.2)

Marijuana use in the past month was consistently highest among 18- to 25-year-olds. No test of statistical significance was conducted for the observed decrease in use among 18- to 25-year-olds or for trends among the other age groups. In the 2013–2014 surveys, about 9% of respondents ages 12–17, 21% of those ages 18–25, and 10% of those ages 26 and older reported marijuana use in the past month. (Figure 1.3)

Figure 1.2: Marijuana use in the past year,
by age group, NSDUH 2008–2014, Alaska
Figure 1.3: Marijuana use in the past month,
by age group, NSDUH 2008–2014, Alaska

More Alaskans ages 18–25 report first using marijuana annually than any other age group. In the 2013–2014 surveys, about 7% of 12- to 17-year-olds, about 9% of 18- to 25-year-olds, and less than 1% of adults ages 26 and older used marijuana for the first time in the year before being surveyed. No consistent trends were observed over this time period. (Figure 1.4)

In the 2013–2014 surveys, about 17% of 12- to 17-year-olds reported perceiving great risk of smoking marijuana once per month, while about 11% of 18- to 25-year-olds and about 20% of adults ages 26 and older perceived great risk of once monthly use. These data suggest a decreasing perception of health risk of occasional marijuana use over the 7 survey years, but tests for statistical significance were not conducted for these trends. (Figure 1.5)

Figure 1.4: First use of marijuana in past year,
by age group,
NSDUH 2008–2014, Alaska
Figure 1.5: Perception of great health risk of smoking marijuana once per month, by age group,
NSDUH 2008–2014, Alaska

Based a combination of data from surveys in 2013 and 2014, an estimated 20,000 (3.5%) people ages 12 and older in Alaska used marijuana daily or almost daily in the previous year (defined as use on 300 days or more in the past year), and 32,000 (5.5%) used daily or almost daily in the previous month (defined as use on 20 or more days in the past month). Statistical analyses of the data shown here indicate that both percentages increased significantly during 2002–2014. (Figure 1.6A)

In 2014, an estimated 6.5 million (2.5%) people ages 12 and older in the United States used marijuana daily or almost daily in the previous year (defined as use on 300 days or more in the past year), and 9.2 million (3.5%) used daily or almost daily in the previous month (defined as use on 20 or more days in the past month). Statistical analyses of the data shown here indicate that both percentages increased significantly during 2002–2014. National values tended to be lower than corresponding Alaskan values (Figure 1.6A), but statistical comparisons were not possible because of different time intervals associated with the two datasets. (Figure 6.1B)

Figure 1.6A: Percentage of people age 12 and older using marijuana daily or almost daily in the past month
and in the past year, NSDUH 2002–2003 through 2013–2014, Alaska
Figure 1.6B: Percentage of people ages 12 and older using marijuana daily or almost daily
in the past month and in the past year,
NSDUH 2002-2014, United States

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Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS): Marijuana use and perceptions, 2007–2015

There was no statistically significant difference between the percentage of high school girls and boys who reported ever using marijuana (one or more times in their lives) in any of the years for which data are presented. The percentage of high school students who reported ever using marijuana decreased significantly from 45% in 2007 to 39% in 2015. Alaska Native high school students were significantly more likely than white high school students to report having used marijuana at least once in their lives over the 9-year period for which data are presented. The percentage of Alaska Native high school students who reported ever having used marijuana decreased from 65% in 2007 to 55% in 2015. For white high school students, the percentage declined from 40% to 31% over the same period. Declines were statistically significant for both of these racial groups. Data for other racial groups did not meet the minimum reporting threshold of 100 respondents per year in one or more years and were therefore combined into a single category (“other”). (Figure 2.1)

Figure 2.1: Percentage of high school students in traditional schools who ever used marijuana
(one or more times during their life), YRBS 2007–2015, Alaska

There was no statistically significant difference between the percentage of high school boys and girls who reported first trying marijuana before age 13 in any of the years for which data are presented. The percentage of high school students who reported first trying marijuana before age 13 did not change significantly over the 9-year period for which data are presented and had a value of 10% in 2015. Alaska Native high school students tended to report having first used marijuana before age 13 at a higher rate than white high school students over this period, but the difference was not statistically significant in all survey years. There was no statistically significant change for either Alaska Native or white high school students in the percentage reporting having first used marijuana before age 13 over this period. In 2015, 18% of Alaska Native high school students and about 5% of white high school students reported having first tried marijuana before age 13. Data for other racial groups did not meet the minimum reporting threshold of 100 respondents per year in one or more years and were therefore combined into a single category (“other”). (Figure 2.2)

Figure 2.2: Percentage of high school students in traditional schools who first tried marijuana before age 13,
YRBS 2007–2015, Alaska

There was no statistically significant difference between the percentage of high school boys and girls who reported currently using marijuana (one or more times in the 30 days before being surveyed). The percentage of high school students who reported currently using marijuana did not change significantly over the 9-year period for which data are presented and had a value of 19% in 2015. Alaska Native high school students tended to report current marijuana use at a higher rate than white high school students over this period, but the difference was not statistically significant in all survey years. There was no statistically significant change for either Alaska Native or white high school students in the percentage reporting current marijuana use over this period. In 2015, 26% of Alaska Native high school students and 15% of white high school students reported currently using marijuana. Data for other racial groups did not meet the minimum reporting threshold of 100 respondents per year in one or more years and were therefore combined into a single category (“other”). (Figure 2.3)

Figure 2.3: Percentage of high school students in traditional schools who currently used marijuana
(at least once in the 30 days before survey), YRBS 2007–2015, Alaska

There was no statistically significant difference between the percentage of high school boys and girls who thought there was a pretty good or very good chance of being seen as cool if they smoked marijuana. The percentage of high school students who reported this perception did not change significantly over the 5-year period for which data are presented and had a value of 14% in 2015. Alaska Native high school students tended to report this perception at a lower rate than white high school students over this period, but the difference was not statistically significant in any of the survey years. There was no statistically significant change for either Alaska Native or white high school students in the percentage reporting this perception over this period. In 2015, 11% of Alaska Native high school students and 14% of white high school students reported this perception. Data for other racial groups did not meet the minimum reporting threshold of 100 respondents per year in one or more years and were therefore combined into a single category (“other”). (Figure 2.4)

Figure 2.4: Percentage of high school students in traditional schools who think there is a pretty good or very good chance they would be seen as cool if they smoked marijuana, YRBS 2011–2015, Alaska

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Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS): Marijuana use, 2009–2013

Note: Tests of statistical significance for the trends shown in this section were not conducted because overall raw data were not available at the time of publication.

In 2013 in Alaska, about 14% of pregnant women reported smoking marijuana in the 12 months before getting pregnant, about 6% reported smoking marijuana during pregnancy, and about 7% reported smoking marijuana since their baby was born. No statistically significant changes in marijuana smoking rates were seen in any of the three groups over the 5-year time period shown. (Figure 3.1)

During 2009–2013, the average annual percentage of pregnant women who reported smoking marijuana was higher for Alaska Native mothers than for white mothers and mothers of other races. This was true for smoking before and during pregnancy, as well as after childbirth. In 2013, about 22% of Alaska Native mothers smoked marijuana in the 12 months before getting pregnant, about 9% did so during their pregnancy, and 9% did so after their baby was born. Among white mothers, about 14% reported smoking marijuana before pregnancy, while 7% reported doing so during pregnancy, and 6% reported doing so after pregnancy in 2013. (Figure 3.2)

Figure 3.1: Percentage of pregnant women
that reported smoking marijuana, by year,
PRAMS 2009–2013, Alaska
Figure 1.1 - Graph showing 2009-2011 PRAMS data for Marijuana use in pregnant women by year.
Figure 3.2: Average annual percentage of pregnant
women that reported smoking marijuana,
by maternal race, PRAMS 2009–2013, Alaska

During 2009–2013, the average annual percentage of pregnant women who reported smoking marijuana consistently declined with increasing duration of maternal education. This was true for smoking before and during pregnancy, as well as after childbirth. In 2013, about 24% of mothers with less than 12 years of education reported smoking marijuana in the 12 months before pregnancy, about 14% reported doing so during pregnancy, and 10% reported doing so after their baby’s birth. (Figure 3.3)

Figure 3.3: Average annual percentage of pregnant women who reported smoking marijuana, by maternal education, PRAMS 2009–2013, Alaska

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Hospital Discharge Database (HDD): Marijuana abuse and dependence, 2003–2012


Figure 4.5: Map depicting the six economic regions
of Alaska*


 

*Courtesy of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Research and Analysis group.


The following figures pertain to inpatient hospitalizations during 2003–2012 at the following 10 health centers in Alaska for which marijuana abuse or dependence (in ICD-9 codes) was cited as a primary or secondary diagnosis: 

  • Alaska Regional Hospital
  • Bartlett Regional Hospital
  • Central Peninsula Hospital
  • Fairbanks Memorial Hospital
  • PeaceHealth Ketchikan
  • Providence Alaska Medical Center
  • Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center
  • Providence Seward Medical Center
  • Alaska Native Medical Center
  • Providence Valdez Medical Center

Every year from 2003 through 2012, the percentage of inpatient hospitalizations for which marijuana abuse or dependence was cited as a factor was higher for males than for females. In 2012, 2.2% of hospitalizations for males and 1.6% of hospitalizations for females were related to marijuana abuse or dependence. (Figure 4.1)

During 2003–2012, the percentage of inpatient hospitalizations for which marijuana abuse or dependence was cited as a factor was generally highest for Alaska Native people and lowest for white people. However, in 2012, 2.6% of hospitalizations for Alaska Native people, 3.5% of hospitalizations for black people, and 1.7% of hospitalizations for white people cited marijuana abuse or dependence as a factor. There was no statistically significant increase or decrease among any of these groups over these 10 years. (Figure 4.2)

Figure 4.1: Percentage of all inpatient hospitalizations for which marijuana abuse or dependence was cited as a factor, by sex, HDD 2003–2012, 10 Alaska Health Centers
Figure 4.1 - Graph showing 2009-2011 PRAMS data for Marijuana use in pregnant women by year.
Figure 4.2: Percentage of all inpatient hospitalizations for which marijuana abuse or dependence was cited as a factor, by race, HDD 2003–2012, 10 Alaska Health Centers

During 2003–2012, the percentage of inpatient hospitalizations for which marijuana abuse or dependence was cited as a factor was generally highest for 15- to 19-year-olds, and lowest for 0- to 14-year-olds and adults ages 65 and older. A significant decrease in inpatient hospitalizations associated with marijuana use was seen among 15- to 19-year-olds during these years, while a statistically significant increase was seen among adults ages 35–64. In 2012, 0.1% of hospitalizations for 0- to 14-year-olds, 5.4% for 15- to 19-year-olds, 6.1% for 20- to 24-year-olds, 3.6% for 25- to 34-year-olds, 2.2% for 35- to 64-year-olds, and 0.2% for adults ages 65 and older involved marijuana abuse or dependence being cited as a factor. (Figure 4.3)

During 2003–2012, the percentage of inpatient hospitalizations for which marijuana abuse or dependence was cited as a factor tended to be highest for the Northern region and lowest for the Gulf Coast region. A statistically significant increase was noted for the Gulf Coast region, and a statistically significant decrease was noted for the Anchorage/Matanuska-Susitna region, but numbers varied greatly from year to year, so these trends should be interpreted with caution. In 2012, the percentages of inpatient hospitalizations for which marijuana abuse or dependence was cited as a factor in each region were as follows: Anchorage/Mat-Su 1.5%, Gulf Coast 1.5%, Interior 2.9%, Northern 3.3%, Southeast 3.0%, and Southwest 1.6%. (Figure 4.4)

Figure 4.3: Percentage of all inpatient hospitalizations for which marijuana abuse or dependence was cited as a factor, by age group, HDD 2003–2012,
10 Alaska Health Centers
Figure 4.4: Percentage of all inpatient hospitalizations for which marijuana abuse or dependence was cited as a factor, by region, HDD 2003–2012,
10 Alaska Health Centers

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Alaska Medical Marijuana Registry: Number of Cardholders, 2013-2015

In 2013, 1,743 Alaskans registered for medical marijuana cards. The number increased slightly to 1,773 by the end of 2014, but then dropped to 1,178 by the end of 2015. The 1,773 cardholders at the end of 2014 were comprised of 853 (48%) new applications and 918 (52%) renewals, while the 1,178 at the end of 2015 were comprised of 515 (44%) new applications and 657 (56%) renewals. In the three years for which data are presented, four, two, and six cardholders had unknown status relative to renewal versus new application. (Figure 5.1)

In 2013, 63% of medical marijuana cardholders were male and 37% were female. In 2014, 61% of medical marijuana cardholders were male and 39% were female. In 2015, 60% of cardholders were male and 40% were female. (Figure 5.2)

Figure 5.1: Number of medical
marijuana cardholders,
by year and application status,
Alaska Medical Marijuana Registry,
2013–2015*
Figure 5.2: Number of medical
marijuana cardholders,
by year and sex,
Alaska Medical Marijuana Registry,
2013–2015

*Counts for a given year are made on January 1 of the following year.

Each year, the largest number of medical marijuana cardholders were ages 55–64 and the fewest number were ages 75 and older. As in the previous figures, not all cardholders from one year renewed their cards in the following year. (Figure 5.3)

Among medical marijuana cardholders younger than 24 years old, the highest number of cardholders was in people ages 21–24. While sample sizes are small, the percentage of cardholders younger than 14 years old rose from 6% in 2014 to 16% in 2015 due to declines in the number of cardholders ages 18–24. As in the previous figures, not all cardholders from one year renewed their cards in the following year. (Figure 5.4)

Figure 5.3: Number of medical marijuana cardholders,
by age group, Alaska Medical Marijuana Registry,
2013–2015
Figure 5.4: Number of pediatric and young adult medical marijuana cardholders (aged 0–24 years), by age group, Alaska Medical Marijuana Registry, 2013–2015

When averaged across the 3 years, the highest mean annual number of medical marijuana cardholders occurred in the Anchorage/Matanuska-Susitna region, the most populous of the six Alaska economic regions. In contrast, when raw cardholder counts were adjusted for region population size, the Gulf Coast region had the highest mean annual number of cardholders per 100,000 residents. As in the previous figures, not all cardholders from one year renewed their cards in the following year. (Figure 5.5)

Figure 5.5: Mean annual number of medical marijuana cardholders, by region,
Alaska Medical Marijuana Registry, 2013–2015*

*2014 population estimates for each region, obtained from State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Analysis, were used to calculate the number of cardholders per 100,000 in each of the three years

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