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Feds Confirm: Youth Marijuana Use Not Rising Under Legalization

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New federal data released on Thursday shows that adolescent cannabis use in not rising in the age of legalization.

“Marijuana use among adolescents aged 12 to 17 was lower in 2016 than in most years from 2009 to 2014,” the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported.

In addition to falling youth use, the annual survey also found that rates of teens who develop problematic cannabis misuse patterns are declining over time.

“The percentage of adolescents with a marijuana use disorder in 2016 was lower than the percentages in 2002 to 2013, but it was similar to the percentages in 2014 and 2015,” the report, which is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said.

The results run contrary to prohibitionists’ claims that legalization would lead to skyrocketing teen use.

β€œCritics of legalization worry about the message being sent to youth by marijuana policy reform efforts, but the real message is that marijuana should only be used by responsible adults, and it seems to be sinking in,” Morgan Fox, senior communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “Regulating marijuana for adults reinforces that message and creates effective mechanisms for making it more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana.”

Cannabis consumption among some adult demographics rose slightly, but coincided with a drop in alcohol use, suggesting a possible substitution effect.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

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