In several national surveys a younger age of substance usage has been associated with a higher likelihood of the development of dependence. Some studies have suggested that age at first use is primarily an environmentally driven variable, whereas others suggest that it may be partially mediated by a general vulnerability to exhibit problem behaviors. Although Native Americans, overall, have the highest prevalence of substance dependence of any US ethnic group, the relationship of age of first marijuana use on the development of dependence in Native American populations is relatively unknown. Demographic information and DSM-III-R diagnoses were obtained from 525 Southwest California Indian adults residing on contiguous reservations. Multinomial logistic regression was used to investigate the relationship between age of first use and marijuana use disorders. Early marijuana use was found to be strongly associated with abuse and dependence in this population, even in the presence of several other risk factors including externalizing diagnoses. These data suggest that effective environmental prevention efforts at reducing early marijuana use may be an important strategy to lower the prevalence of use disorders in this high risk population.