Background: Imperial County, CA is situated just 17 miles north of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico and is inhabited by 180,883 residents.1 83% of the population is Hispanic or Latino and 31% are immigrants, the majority originating from Mexico.1
The only legal access to cannabis (marijuana) in the Imperial County is through licensed delivery-only dispensaries.2 Despite limited legal availability, cannabis was the most prevalent drug in the Imperial County and was the highest seized drug at the Southwest CA-Mexico border in 2000. 3
The recent legalization of cannabis in California necessitates that studies investigate cultural attitudes, perspectives, and use of cannabis in those communities that will be directly impacted by the policy changes. Hispanics or Latinos of California are a community of particular interest as they make up the second largest ethnic group in California and are one of the ethnic groups with highest rates of cannabis use and cannabis use disorder.1,4 Documentation of ethnic communities’ attitudes, perspectives, and use of cannabis can assist in identifying the communities that will most benefit from cannabis use education, prevention, and intervention efforts in the future.
Anonymous self-administered paper questionnaires were conducted in English and Spanish to customers selected at random from 3 local Walmart stores in the Imperial County. To be eligible for participation, subjects had to be Hispanic/Latino, over the age of 12, and current residents of the Imperial County. A total of 174 valid surveys were analyzed. Attitudes towards cannabis legalization was assessed using a 5-point Likert scale (1=strongly support, 3=neutral, 5=strongly oppose). Perceived stigma towards cannabis use was assessed using an 8 item 5-point Likert scale (1=strongly agree 3=neutral 5=strongly disagree) adapted from the Perceived Stigma of Substance Abuse Scale (PSAS) developed by Luoma, J.B. (2010). Associations between variables was performed using IBM SPSS Statistics version 24.0 for Windows.
The average age of cannabis use onset was 17.28 years (SD=5.186). The percentage of the sample who had any lifetime cannabis use was 53%, any past year cannabis use was 30%, and any past month use was 16%. This sample's cannabis use across all time periods appear to be higher than U.S. population and U.S. Hispanic use estimates. The sample's perceived social stigma towards cannabis was near the midpoint or Neutral ( M=3.17) out of a 5-point Likert scale. The 5 most common reasons for not using cannabis were due to: lack of interest, fear of performance in sports, work, or other responsibilities being affected, personal negative experience with cannabis, fear of getting into legal work or other trouble, and knowing someone who uses cannabis and not liking how it affects them. The 5 most common reasons for using cannabis were due to stress, experimentation, fun, anxiety, and pain relief. There was no significant association between age with amount of lifetime use. Amount of lifetime cannabis use was not correlated with perceived cannabis use stigma.
Discussion and Conclusion
Based on the sample studied it appears that:
Hispanics from the Imperial County may be more likely than U.S. Hispanics and overall U.S. population to have used cannabis in their lifetime, in the past year, and in the past month. Overall perceived stigma towards cannabis use is neutral in the Hispanic population sampled in this study. The majority of Hispanics from this sample are neutral towards or in support of cannabis legalization. Time spent living in the U.S does not have a significant effect on the amount of lifetime cannabis use in this sample.