Public Health Topics

Beach Cities Health District identified substance use as a health priority for 2022-25. For more information about the health priorities, visit

> Youth Access to Cannabis in the Beach Cities

Know the Facts

  • Cannabis refers to all products derived from the cannabis plant, while the word marijuana refers specifically to parts or products from the plant that contain substantial amounts (more than 0.3%) of the mind-altering chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2019)
  • Marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States, with an estimated 48.2 million users in 2019 (CDC, 2021)
  • On average, THC concentration in cannabis products has increased 3-fold between 1995 and 2014, from 4% to 12% (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2019)
  • Use of high potency products is associated with greater risk of psychosis (Forti et al., 2019)
  • High potency marijuana users show five times higher risk for symptom onset of cannabis use disorder (Arterberry et al., 2019)
  • Cannabis-related emergency department visits in the United States have increased by more than 300% between 2006 (12.3 visits per 100,000 population) and 2018 (54.2 visits per 100,000) (Roehler et al., 2022)


  • In 2019, 37% of United States high school students reported using marijuana in their lifetime and 22% reported use in the past 30 days (CDC, 2021)
  • Lifetime marijuana use is the number one risk factor for prescription opioid misuse (CDC, 2020)
  • Nationwide, cannabis vaping among youth increased by 58% between 2018 and 2019 (California Department of Public Health, 2019)

In the Beach Cities

  • 15% of Beach Cities 11th graders reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, which is higher than the Los Angeles County average (13%)
  • 39% of Beach Cities 9th graders reported it is “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain marijuana
  • Since 2019, the perception of risk/harm of occasional and daily use of marijuana has declined among Beach Cities 7th, 9th and 11th graders

(Source: California Healthy Kids Survey, 2019 – 2021)


  • In 2020, cannabis use in the past year was highest among young adults 18 to 25 years old (35%), followed by adults 26 or older (16%) (SAMHSA, 2021)
  • Among older adults 65 years and older, the use of cannabis more than doubled among those who used alcohol from 2015 to 2018 (Han and Palamar, 2020)

In the South Bay

SPA 8 serves the communities of Athens, Avalon, Carson, Catalina Island, El Segundo, Gardena, Harbor City, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lennox, Long Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Dominguez, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, San Pedro, Torrance, Wilmington and others.

Health Impacts of Cannabis Use

Dangers of Underage Cannabis Use

  • Cannabis use interferes with brain development which can disrupt cognitive functions that are important for academic performance and activities such as driving and sports. These functions include:
    • Learning and memory
    • Pleasure and reward
    • Motion and motor control
    • Appetite
    • Sleep
    • Reproduction and fertility

Short-Term Adverse Effects

  • THC overactivates certain brain cell receptors, resulting in effects such as:
    • Altered senses
    • Changes in mood
    • Impaired body movement
    • Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
    • Impaired memory and learning
  • Overdose symptoms including:
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Lethargy
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Loss of coordination

Long-Term Effects

  • Increased risk of mental health issues including:
    • Depression
    • Social anxiety
    • Psychosis
    • Schizophrenia
    • Suicidal ideation or behavior
  • Chronic bronchitis and injury to cell linings of the large airways. Symptoms include:
    • Chronic cough
    • Phlegm production
    • Acute bronchitis

Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020; CDC, 2021; SAMHSA, 2021

Cannabis and Youth Series

State of our Health: Cannabis and Youth

Cannabis and Youth: What Beach Cities Students Want Parents to Know

Cannabis and Youth: Influencing Factors in the Beach Cities 

Cannabis and Youth: What Health Providers Want Parents to Know