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Examination of the Impact of Legal Sanctions on Adolescent Marijuana Use - A Panel Analysis

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 12 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1982) Pages: 73-87
S R Burkett; C A Hickman
Date Published
Legal sanctions are likely to have a minimal impact on future use of marijuana by those who are punished for using the substance unless efforts focus on involving offending youths with conventional peers or on redirecting the group using marijuana.
In addition, the threat of sanctions has little, if any, direct or indirect effect on subsequent use. A total of 378 students in 2 high schools in a northwestern city completed questionnaires in grades 10 and 11. The questions covered marijuana use, attitudes and beliefs relating to the law and certainty of apprehension and punishment, deviant identity, and the extent of involvement with other youth who use marijuana. Court records showed that 20 percent of the males and 13 percent of the females in the sample had official records. The use of marijuana was intricately tied to involvement with others who use marijuana. These processes appeared to occur independently of the application of legal sanctions. Only marginal support existed for the hypothesis derived from labeling theory that those who have been labeled delinquent will become more deeply involved with peers who use marijuana, develop negative attitudes toward the law and themselves, and lessen their fears of future sanctions. However, females appeared to be more adversely affected by their juvenile court experiences than were males. Marijuana use is a group phenomenon; the group context largely negates the potential impact of the appearance in juvenile court. Tables, figures, notes, and a list of 17 references are provided.