Contrary to fears raised by marijuana opponents, teen use of cannabis is trending downward in most states that have legalized it for adult use.
According to new data from the federally-funded National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the percentage of Colorado teens who used marijuana in the past year is down more than two points in the 2015-2016 version of the study as compared to the 2014-2015 edition.
The same is true in Washington State. In Washington, D.C., the drop was nearly three points. A smaller decline was seen in Oregon, while Alaska showed a slight rise.
Annual teen cannabis use is also down across the U.S. as a whole, but the drop was less significant than that experienced in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize marijuana.
Percentage Of 12-17 Year-Olds Who Used Marijuana In The Past Year
|District of Columbia||16.55||13.58|
Similar drops were seen in most legalization states for monthly teen cannabis use as well.
Percentage Of 12-17 Year-Olds Who Used Marijuana In The Past Month
|District of Columbia||8.85||8.07|
Colorado and Washington State legalized marijuana in 2012, with Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. ending cannabis prohibition in 2014. (Four additional states voted to legalize marijuana in 2016, but those programs weren’t running when the new survey was completed.)
While legalization opponents have long argued that ending prohibition would lead to skyrocketing use by young people, that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Advocates, on the other hand, have maintained that regulating and controlling the cannabis market and instituting strict age restrictions would actually give teens less access to marijuana than they had when it was illegal and there were no checks for age at the point of sale.
In a Facebook post, cannabis consulting firm Freedman and Koski, Inc, which is run by Colorado’s former top marijuana official, said that the drop in teen use in the state “coincides with an increase in funding prevention programs from cannabis taxes.”
“Colorado is effectively regulating marijuana for adult use. Teen use appears to be dropping now that state and local authorities are overseeing the production and sale of marijuana,” said Brian Vicente, partner at Vicente Sederberg LLC, and one of the lead drafters of Colorado’s legalization measure. “There are serious penalties for selling to minors, and regulated cannabis businesses are being vigilant in checking IDs. The days of arresting thousands of adults in order to prevent teens from using marijuana are over.”
The new state numbers are part of a state breakdown of NSDUH data that was released last week.