Youth marijuana use shows no increase with legalization

Youth marijuana use shows no increase with legalization

According to a federal study, states that have legalized adult-use marijuana have not seen an increase in either youth marijuana use or availability.

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) analyzed ten years of data from students in grades 9-12 who reported marijuana use in the previous 30 days. They found that between 2009 and 2019, youth marijuana use has remained essentially unchanged.

“The overall percentage of students who reported using marijuana at least 1 time during the previous 30 days in 2019 was not measurably different from the percentage in 2009…. There was no measurable difference between 2009 and 2019 in the percentage of students who reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property.”

The findings are consistent with prior data concerning youth marijuana use.

Despite the claim by cannabis opponents that marijuana use among teens would increase with legalization, the data tells a different story. In 2009, before the first recreational dispensaries opened, 21 percent of high school students reported cannabis use within the previous 30 days. In 2019, with recreational cannabis legal in 17 states, 22 percent of students reported recently using marijuana.

The percentage of high school students who use marijuana has remained consistent both before and after statewide cannabis legalization.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) biennial Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found similar results.

“Youth marijuana use has not significantly changed since legalization, but the way youth are using marijuana is changing. In 2019, 20.6% of youth said they use marijuana compared to 19.4% in 2017. More youth are now vaping marijuana — 10.6% in 2019 compared to 5.1% in 2015. Dabbing rose from 4.3% in 2015 to 20.4% in 2019,” according to a press release.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that teen marijuana use decreased after legalization. Researchers analyzed data from 1.4 million high school students between 1993 and 2017 and found an 8 percent decrease in teen use after states legalized recreational marijuana.

“Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth. Moreover, the estimates reported…showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes.”

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