Two years after legalization, 22% of Alaska high schoolers used pot in past 30 days, and 16% had driven while high


In 2014, Alaska voters legalized the commercial production, growth, and sales of marijuana by voter initiative.

Measure 2 went into effect five years ago this month. It allows adults 21 years or older to possess and use marijuana and associated cannabis projects. In 2016, the first first retail marijuana store opened in October 2016.

Marijuana is America’s most commonly used psychotropic drug after alcohol. So how is Alaska doing? Two years after legalization, the state conducted a survey, and 2017 numbers were recently released in a report.

According to the Department of Health and Social Serivces, 9,000 people under the age of 18 used marijuana during the previous 30 days, about 22 percent of all traditional high school students.

More Alaska students use marijuana than smoke cigarettes. The students using marijuana the most were 11th and 12th graders, and students in alternative and correctional schools. The pattern of usage among Alaska youth tracks with the national average.

Although that number may seem high, cannabis use among high schoolers peaked in the late 1970s, when more than one-third of seniors (37 percent in 1976) reported using pot in the past month.

Some 15.4 percent of Alaska adults used marijuana during the past 30 days. Among Alaska Natives, that number is 24 percent.

Smoking marijuana, as opposed to dabbing, eating, or vaping, was the favorite form of consumption among all Alaskans (96.3 percent), and especially among Alaska Natives (99.3 percent). 

Ten percent of Alaska adults used marijuana on 20 or more occasions during the prior month, something considered “heavy use.” That equates to 54,000 Alaska adults being heavy users of marijuana, or over 7 percent of the entire population of the state (including all ages).

Between 2015 and 2017, the prevalence of marijuana usage among Alaska adults was higher than the national average.

Adult heavy use increased significantly between 2015 and 2017. The prevalence of marijuana use among Alaska adults was higher than the national average.

Nine percent of women who delivered a baby in Alaska in 2017 said they used marijuana at least once while they were pregnant. This translates to about 900 births in the year.

Among those mothers who breastfed their babies, marijuana use was lower than non-breastfeeding mothers. Still, one in ten breastfeeding mothers reported using marijuana at least once since delivery. About 6 percent of Alaska mothers of 3-year-old children said they had used marijuana in the past month.

According to the survey, fewer people believe that marijuana usages is harmful, compared to the national average. Only 19 percent of Alaska high school students believe there is a great risk from using marijuana once or twice a month, and only 3 percent of those using marijuana think it’s risky.

One in 10 high school students who drive had operated a vehicle while high in the past month, and 16 percent had driven while high at some point since getting their license.

As for medical uses of marijuana, the number of medical marijuana registry patient cardholders dropped dramatically, from more than 1,700 in 2014 and 2015 to only 404 in 2019. And yet, 1-in-10 users reported using marijuana for medical purposes in past 30 days.

Another population that showed high usage is the gay/lesbian/bisexual community, 28.9 percent of which uses marijuana, compared with 15 percent of the heterosexual population.

By October 2019, Alaska had licensed 102 retail stores to sell marijuana. Businesses are located throughout the state. State marijuana regulators have not set limits on the number of licenses by person or entity.

Marijuana products sold and with that, tax revenues have risen steadily. From January-October 2019 more than 17 tons of taxed marijuana products changed hands on the legal market, generating more than $17 million in state tax revenue.

[Read more of the marijuana usage report at this link]


  1. And frankly I don’t see how educators care, they just need the tax revenues for more wasteful largess.
    Helped by a legislature suckling on the teachers union.

  2. The acceptance of the false information that cannabis is detrimental to human health was institutionalized into society many decades ago when Cannabis was erroneously designated a schedule 1 drug by the US government in the early 1970s; Unfortunately it takes even longer to unlearn bad information than it does to learn valid information, and even longer to change the mentality, and momentum, of industrialized society.

    Essentially schedule 1 Designation has virtually barred almost ALL possibility of research into the medicinal benefits of cannabinoid Therapy since the early 1970s and yet given this seeming insurmountable road block to ‘positive research’, and an obvious bias towards the ‘negative research’, there is far more evidence of the benefits of cannabis use , as opposed to evidence supporting the over exaggerated, and scientifically unfounded, claims of deleterious effects on human physiology.

    How were the medicinal benefits of Cannabinoid Therapy ever to be discovered when the medical community has essentially been barred from researching it for over half a century?

    • It most certainly is detrimental. I have lived long enough to see cannabis ruin more than a few lives including my brother in law whom is now dead – from addiction that began with smoking pot. At age 25 when he decided to enter the military he was told by the military, after the results of his physical returned that he had the brain fluid shrinkage of a 45 year old male. That woke him up for awhile and he stopped smoking pot during his six year military tenure, only to switch to alcohol during that time. His life became a cycle of addiction until he was killed in an accident while intoxicated. Cannabis at the very least feeds addictions. Certainly there may be medical benefits to cannabis, but it is a drug and not a benign one.

  3. Medical Cannabis users can run at blood levels of 10 to 50 ng/ml of THC and even higher in some cases.

    Assumption of impairment also ignores levels of CBD which have a major mitigating factor in the psychoactive effects of THC.

    Many aspects of the new Canadian Cannabis Act impairment laws are brutally unconstitutional and will continue to be challenged in court due to the vast range of human tolerance to THC and the inconsistency of it’s impact on various individual human physiology.

    In the vast majority of medicinal applications, the daily use of Cannabis medicine results in a n almost complete and total tolerance to the psychoactive effects of Delta 9 THC due to the receding of CB1 receptors in the central nervous system, specifically in the brain, resulting in no impairment in the ability to operate a motor vehicle while using Cannabis medicine properly.

  4. …..and murdered and raped; invaded homes and robbed businesses and families and persons unknown. What a great legislative body this state elects. And, of course, the dynamic TRIO of Congressman Don Young, Senator “Lying” Lisa Murkowski and Senator Dan Sullivan forming the caucus to ensure the cannabis industry has every opportunity for banking, enabling loans to develop their cannabis businesses and more….lucky Alaskans, aren’t we!!! Now Dunleavy, former teacher, will add gambling to another level….lucky Alaskans, aren’t we!!!!

  5. How to make more Democrat voters? Addle their minds numb with THC, because everyone knows Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.

    • I don’t have a problem with old school Democrats. It’s this new radical branch that doesn’t like to work, wants everything free and handed to them and they can’t think on their own. We would all be speaking Japanese or German if this bunch was around 80 years ago.

  6. Look at the bright side.
    After a lifetime of indoctrination by Alaska’s education industry,
    After a lifetime of radical Leftists intruding, meddling in their very existence rooting out any sense of optimism and self determination,
    After realizing on some level that because of their functional illiteracy, they’ve gone about as far as they can go in the job market,
    After realizing their functional illiteracy reduced their higher-education prospects to internment in a third-rate, state-sponsored college,
    and simply because their parents can’t afford more pot,

    only 22% of Alaska high schoolers used pot in the last 30 days.
    and probably because tax-ravaged parents of the other 84% can’t afford a vehicle with the concomitant license, insurance, registration, and fuel costs for their

    progeny while footing bills incurred by housing, feeding, and providing social media for said progeny,
    only 16% had driven while high.

  7. Someone please tell me where the $17 million in tax money has gone? The marijuana industry here in Alaska is bringing in a significant amount of money in taxes, so where is that money being spent? Come on Alaska Legislature, tell me where you are spending all that money and then try to explain to me why you think you still need to steal the PFD from the people of this state or implement some sort of tax on the working class.

  8. I would wager the numbers of marijuana “users” in that demographic was the same before legalization. The biggest difference is that they would be criminals then. They’re not now. I think it’s much better. The most obvious change is that the state is now the biggest “dealer” instead of criminals. You know, Mr. Big (local and state gov’t) always gets the lion’s share of the proceeds.

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