This paper contains the first estimates of the price sensitivity of the prevalence of youth marijuana use. Survey data on marijuana use by high school seniors from the Monitoring the Future Project are combined with data on marijuana prices and potency from the Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Intelligence or Intelligence Division. Our estimates of the price elasticity of annual marijuana participation range from -0.06 to -0.47, while those for thirty day participation from -0.002 to -0.69. These estimates clearly imply that changes in the real, quality adjusted price of marijuana contributed significantly to the trends in youth marijuana use between 1982 and 1998, particularly during the contraction in use from 1982 to 1992. Similarly, changes in youth perceptions of the harms associated with regular marijuana use had a substantial impact on both the contraction in use during the 1982 through 1992 period and the subsequent expansion in use after 1992. These findings underscore the usefulness of considering price in addition to more traditional determinants in any analysis of marijuana consumption decisions made by youths.
Research Paper (PDF – 366KB)