So the truth is out – medical marijuana legalization does not increase the risk of your teen trying marijuana. At least, not as far as the data shows from the last few decades of marijuana reform.
The thinking of many anti-legalization groups and one of the points that they come back to again and again is the fear that legalizing marijuana would increase teen use. They will tell parents that by legalizing marijuana we are sending the message that it is perfectly okay for anyone, including teens, to use.
However, this theory has been proven wrong! If you take a look at the statistics from a study done over 24 years – from 1991 to 2014 – has found that legalizing medical marijuana made no significant impact on teen use in the states which have legalized.
Similarly, multiple other studies have shown similar results to the 24 year study. For example, in Colorado, teen use decreased from 22% to 20% from 2011 to 2013 – however this data does not reflect the numbers after cannabis was recreationally legalized.
According to the Washington Post, “In 1999, 47.2 percent of high schoolers had reported ever using marijuana in their lifetime. That number plummeted to 36.8 percent in 2009.”
Something that may be leading to this drop is the large increase in teens 12-14 in age who are against marijuana use. Holding strong around 78-81% these days, back in 2002 less than 75% of students strongly disapproved of marijuana use.
It does seem however, that once teens reach 10th grade (around 15-16 years old) that most of the opinion seems to level out. This could simply be because at that age people start to truly form their own opinions and are less susceptible to negative propaganda – though that is only my theory.
Teen use may be a higher percentage in some states with legal marijuana – but the teen use percentages in these states were already higher to begin with and have dropped since legalization was put into effect.
Oh, and here’s another great fact – some information has remained the same as far back as the 70s – and that’s the fact that well over 80% of 12th graders admit that it is almost as easy for them to get ahold of weed as it is for them to get ahold of beer or liquor.
This in itself should show that teen use of marijuana is not likely to be largely impacted (if at all) by legalization of any kind. If teens are smoking marijuana, it is likely by their own decision, without a ton of outside influence.
There are of course still programs that are around to keep children and teens aware of the dangers of substance use of all kinds – which I am not against as long as they are provided with truthful and factual information, rather than a bunch of garbage meant to scare kids out of it.
Unfortunately, not enough information is around yet for us to say statistically whether or not recreational legalization has made in impact – though with the stats over the last twenty four years of medical marijuana being legalized, it should not be something that parents stress and fear.