Cannabis Use and Antisocial Behavior among Youth


  • Financial assistance for this study was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant Numbers R01 DA018645, 3P50 DA07705, R01 DA11506, and R01 DA12724). We gratefully acknowledge Sara Markowitz and Don Kenkel for research suggestions and William Russell and Carmen Martinez for editorial assistance. We also thank participants at the 2006 American Society of Health Economists Conference for helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of the paper. The authors are entirely responsible for the research and results reported in this paper, and their position or opinions do not necessarily represent those of the University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University, Cornell University, the RAND Corporation, or the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Please direct correspondence to Professor Michael T. French, Department of Sociology, Department of Economics, and Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Miami, 5202 University Drive, Merrick Building, Room 121F, P.O. Box 248162, Coral Gables, FL 33124-2030, USA; e-mail:


Despite the numerous efforts to curb substance use and abuse through legislation and interventions, marijuana consumption continues to be a major social problem, particularly among young adults in the United States. We provide new information on the relationship between cannabis use and antisocial behavior by analyzing a sample of young adults (aged 18–20) from the National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). We examine a broad set of cannabis use patterns and multiple dimensions of antisocial behaviors and test the empirical importance of two prominent criminological theories—general strain and social bond—in explaining associations between cannabis use and antisocial behavior. We include important socioeconomic, demographic, health and health behaviors, and contextual information in all regressions to control for confounding factors. Our results imply that cannabis use is positively and significantly related to antisocial behavior among young adults, and general strain and social bond theories cannot fully explain our findings. As expected, the estimated association with antisocial behavior is stronger for more frequent cannabis users.