Teen Cannabis Use Continues to Drop in States that Legalized Marijuana

Cannabis legalization does not lead to increased use by young people, according to a federally funded study. In fact, legal states have seen underage consumption decrease since repealing prohibition.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has released the latest iteration of the regular Monitoring the Future survey, evaluating the drug habits of American eighth, tenth and twelfth graders. This newest addition continues to show that teen cannabis consumption has actually dropped since states began legalizing the substance back in 2012. And while teens are more likely to believe frequent or occasional cannabis use is not harmful, they also believe it is harder to obtain now.

"Rates of marijuana use by teens have been of great interest to researchers over the past decade, given major social and legislative shifts around the drug; it is now legal for adult recreational use in 10 states plus the District of Columbia, and it is available medicinally in many more," reads a NIDA press release. "Fortunately, even as teens' attitudes toward marijuana's harms continue to relax, they are not showing corresponding increases in marijuana use."

After states began legalizing recreational cannabis in 2012, teen consumption rates dropped off and have stayed relatively steady since then. For advocates, these numbers are a great sign that legalization and regulation of the cannabis market are key to protecting youth, and not the other way around.

"The most significant public policy approach to reduce teen use of cannabis is to take it out of the hands of the illicit market and put it behind a counter where employees check IDs," NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment. "This new report and public acknowledgment by NIDA only further solidifies our demand for an expeditious legalization in the remaining stubborn states with prohibition."

And hopefully it will also force opponents of marijuana reform to drop the tired argument that legalization leads to increased teen use. 


President Trump's 2020 budget request includes a loophole that would let Washington, DC finally open up dispensaries for recreational cannabis. Although DC voters passed a ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis back in 2014, Congress has used its power over the nation's capital to prevent it from selling cannabis for recreational use. Right now, local dispensaries can only sell medical marijuana to registered patients thanks to Congress, which controls spending in the District of Columbia.

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