Marijuana Use and American Indian/Alaska Native Youth in Washington State

Primary author: Faith Price
Faculty sponsor: Elizabeth Weybright

Primary college/unit: Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences
Campus: Pullman


American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth have higher rates of marijuana use than their peers nationally. However, substance use trends differ by region and there is immense diversity amongst Tribes. In addition, many AI/AN youth are from multicultural heritages, a group typically ignored by research.

This study used data from tenth grade respondents to the Washington Healthy Youth Survey from 2006-2018 to explore marijuana use prevalence rates amongst AI/AN-only and multicultural AI/AN youth in Washington state and the risk and protective factors influencing their substance use. Statistical analyses revealed both AI/AN-only and multicultural AI/AN HYS respondents had significantly higher marijuana use prevalence rates than their non-Native peers. Both groups of AI/AN youth were also initiating marijuana use at significantly younger ages than their non-Native peers. In addition, AI/AN-only and multicultural AI/AN tenth graders reported significantly higher means of risk factors and lower means of protective factors than non-Native youth. However, many of the risk and protective factors associated with marijuana use for non-Native youth were not significantly predictive of marijuana use for AI/AN-only youth, nor, to a lesser extent, multicultural AI/AN youth.

This study’s findings suggest that research needs to be inclusive of multicultural AI/AN health, a substantial segment of the AI/AN population that is at high risk and generally overlooked. In addition, both AI/AN-only and multicultural AI/AN youth have unique risk and protective factors from the general population which may better explain marijuana use patterns. Prevention programs must address these unique needs if they are to effectively serve AI/AN populations.