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Why Legalization Won't Put Your Teens At Risk

New research from the National Institute of Drug Abuse has found no increase in teen pot use in America use over the past five years.

It's a fairly stark contrast to the hand-wringing of legalization opponents, who anticipated the nation's youth would start lighting up en masse after recreational marijuana became legal in four states.

Overall, almost 50,000 students from nearly 400 public and private schools participated in this year's survey, which has measured drug, alcohol and cigarette use and related attitudes in high schoolers since 1975.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, the NIDA report's findings on cannabis were, overall, pretty encouraging on the subject of teen cannabis use.

- Rates of daily marijuana use by 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders, as well as monthly use by 12th-graders, did not change from 2014 to 2015 and have remained unchanged since 2010.

- The rate of monthly marijuana use by 8th-graders did not change in the past year, but has dropped significantly since 2010.

- The rate of monthly marijuana use by 10th-graders appears to have dropped significantly from 2014 (and 2010) to 2015.

Perception of marijuana use as risky also continues to decline among high school seniors, 31.9 percent of which reported believing regular use could be harmful, compared to 36.1 percent last year.

The static rates of teen use are extra-good news in light of studies finding heavy marijuana use has a negative effect on still-developing teenage brains. But access to more reliable information on cannabis, as the MPP's Mason Tyvert pointed out, is never a bad thing.

"For decades, teens had an artificially high perception of risk that stemmed from exaggerations and scare tactics," Tyvert said in a statement. "Now that there is more information out there and it's not limited to horror stories and propaganda, they are developing a more realistic view. The goal of marijuana education should not be to increase teens' perception of risk. It should be to increase teens' understanding of marijuana."

"It's time to stop using teens as a shield to fend off sensible marijuana policy reform efforts."


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