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Teen Marijuana Use Continues to Drop


Despite the claims from those who support marijuana prohibition that legalization laws would make it easier for kids to get marijuana, thereby increasing use among that age group, the latest data shows that the opposite is actually happening.

The latest numbers from the annual federally-funded “Monitoring the Future” study out of the University of Michigan show a downward trend in teen cannabis use. From the MTF press release:

“Marijuana, the most widely used of the illicit drugs, dropped sharply in 2016 in use among 8th­ graders to 9.4 percent, or about one in every 11 indicating any use in the prior 12 months. Use also declined among 10th­ graders as well, though not by a statistically significant amount, to 24 percent or about one in every four 10th ­graders. The  annual prevalence of marijuana use (referring to the percentage using any marijuana in the prior 12 months) has been declining gradually among 8th ­graders since 2010, and more sharply among 10th­ graders since 2013. Among 12th ­graders, however, the prevalence of marijuana use is higher (36  percent) and has held steady since 2011. These periods of declining use (or in the case of 12th­ graders, stabilization) followed several years of increasing use by each of these age groups.”

“I don’t have an explanation. This is somewhat surprising,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which commissions the annual survey. “We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [accessibility and use] would go up. But it hasn’t gone up,” she said.

Therein lies the problem. When you don’t base your predictions on logic the odds of them being borne out drop significantly.

“We’ve always argued that taking marijuana out of the unregulated criminal market and putting sales into the hands of responsible retailers would actually make it harder for young people to get it,” said Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority. “The new data bear this out, and it’s just common sense. Under legalization, businesses have every incentive to follow the rules and make sure their customers are of legal age lest they lose their lucrative licenses. Conversely, black market dealers don’t care about the IDs in their customers wallets; they only care about the money in there.”

And teen use is down across the country, whether a state has virtually no cannabis legalization (Pennsylvania) or a lot of legalization (Colorado). As teens get more information about cannabis and see they were lied to about how dangerous it is, they realize it’s not the big deal their parents made it out to be. It also loses the allure of something dangerous and forbidden to experiment with; this process is further accelerated by legalization laws.

Kids shouldn’t use marijuana except for medical purposes, supervised by their parents and their doctor. And to pretend that they can get marijuana easier from a legal store than from a black market dealer is naïve in the extreme and is so devoid of logic that it is a notion that has no place when discussing the issue of cannabis.