Half of Ohio Adults Have Tried Marijuana: Data Concern Public Health Advocates

COLUMBUS—A statewide survey found that roughly half of Ohio adults have tried marijuana. Among those adults who have tried it, three in 10 have used it in the last year.

The data from the 2018 Ohio Health Issues Poll, a telephone survey to measure Ohioans’ opinions on health-related issues sponsored by Interact for Health, was shared Tuesday at the Statewide Prevention Coalition Association’s annual meeting.

The percentage of Ohio adults who have ever tried marijuana has been steady since first asked by OHIP in 2015. The data did not vary by income, but the poll found that Ohio adults age 65 and older have consistently been less likely to have tried marijuana.

The data concern public health advocates, who worry that young people will be exposed to adults’ use of marijuana and may have easy access to the drug. They say parents should talk to their children about how marijuana use impacts the developing brain and negatively impacts mental health.

“This is a result of concerted marketing and lobbying campaigns by businesses that want to make money by selling you marijuana products,” said Marcie Seidel, executive director of Prevention Action Alliance, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to leading healthy communities in the prevention of substance misuse and the promotion of mental health wellness.

Seidel said that heavy advertising across the Internet and legalization in some states increases the ability of people to access marijuana. Marijuana businesses also use ads to downplay the effects of marijuana use, making it seem harmless. As a result, Seidel said, more people think marijuana use is OK.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as the perception of harm decreases, more teens will use marijuana. States that have legalized marijuana are seeing teens use the drug more frequently and more heavily, Seidel said.

One in 10 people who use marijuana will develop an addiction, or marijuana use disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That number increases to one in six when for those who start using marijuana in their teens.

The risk of mental health issues increases significantly for teens who use marijuana, said Seidel. It can lead to addiction, breathing problems, and mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, moodiness and depression, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Marijuana use is shown to affect attention, motivation, memory, and learning. Students who use marijuana heavily also get lower grades and are less likely to graduate from high school or college or enroll in college. They also are less satisfied with life, are more likely to earn a lower income, and are more likely to be unemployed.

Seidel encouraged parents to talk about marijuana with their children.

“Frequently having open, honest, and non-judgmental conversations with your kids has been shown to reduce the risk of them using substances by up to 50 percent,” Seidel said. “Chances are, your kids are already hearing about marijuana from their friends, classmates, and in advertisements on television, social media, and the Internet. As parents, it’s our job to help our kids make sense of the exaggerated claims and the health risks of marijuana.”

Seidel said parents can start by making sure their kids know that marijuana isn’t safe, even if companies claim it has medicinal properties or that it’s natural. She said the research on medical uses of marijuana is still limited.

It’s also important, Seidel said, for kids to know that marijuana is addictive and harmful to the developing teen brain.

Lastly, Seidel said not to exaggerate the health risks of marijuana. Appealing to fear has been shown by research to be ineffective among young people. In fact, Seidel said, it can lead some risk-taking teens to try drugs.

“Trying to scare kids away from using drugs is ineffective,” Seidel said. “It’s far more effective to be factual and to persuade children that, as a caring adult who cares about their health, you want them to make healthy decisions for their own sake.”

Seidel said people could also support the creation of a PAA-proposed cannabis educational campaign by the Ohio legislature. That campaign would task the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, with help from the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, to create a comprehensive, statewide campaign. The campaign would educate the public about:

  • The risk factors and signs of marijuana use disorders.
  • The environmental effects of cannabis production.
  • The health effects cannabis has on different populations, including pregnant mothers, children, and the elderly.
  • The varying legality of cannabis products.
  • The fundamental differences between derivative products, such as oils, hemp, FDA-approved marijuana.

As proposed, the campaign would be funded with fees generated from the hemp and medical marijuana programs as well as private investment.

About the Ohio Health Issues Poll

The 2018 Ohio Health Issues Poll (OHIP) is funded by Interact for Health. OHIP was conducted May 22-June 19, 2018, by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 816 adults from throughout Ohio was interviewed by telephone. This included 363 landline telephone interviews and 452 cell phone interviews. In 95 of 100 cases, statewide estimates will be accurate to ± 3.4%. There are other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, or context effects that can introduce error or bias. For more information about the Ohio Health Issues Poll, please visit

About Prevention Action Alliance and the Statewide Prevention Coalition Association

The Statewide Prevention Coalition Association was created to provide a state infrastructure for substance misuse prevention coalitions and other groups. SPCA is one of four networks at Prevention Action Alliance, a nonprofit based in Columbus, Ohio. PAA is dedicated to leading healthy communities in the prevention of substance misuse and the promotion of mental health wellness. To learn more about PAA, visit