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Teen Marijuana Use Low, Despite Massive Cannabis Reform

Cannabis enthusiasts were thrilled this past Election Day when four more states voted to legalize marijuana in some form, bringing the total states legalizing to eight (plus Washington D.C.). While some regarded this as the critical mass to legalization, others feared it would bring about an increase in teenage use. However, the results of an annual teen study show that marijuana use is static, and possibly even dropping.

According to the Monitoring the Future Survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

  •  Among 8th-graders, the rate of past-year marijuana use dropped significantly from 11.8% in 2015 to 9.4% in 2016, its lowest level since 1993. Past-month marijuana use also dropped significantly, from 6.5% in 2015 to 5.4% in 2016, and daily use dropped from 1.1% in 2015 to 0.7% in 2016.
  •  Among 10th- and 12th-graders, rates of past-year, past-month, and daily marijuana use remained relatively stable compared to last year.
  •  Rates of use among 12th-graders appear to be higher in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without them, but previous studies have found that rates of use were already higher prior to the adoption of such laws.
  •  Students’ perception of risk surrounding marijuana remained relatively stable from 2015 to 2016. The perception that marijuana is very easy or fairly easy to access declined slightly for 8th- and 10th-graders, and it increased slightly for 12th-graders.

According to Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Every time a state considers rolling back marijuana prohibition, opponents predict it will result in more teen use. Yet the data seems to tell a very different story. There has been a sea change in state marijuana laws over the past six years and teen usage rates have remained stable and even gone down in some cases.

“The best way to prevent teen marijuana use is education and regulation, not arresting responsible adult consumers and depriving sick people of medical marijuana. It is time to adopt marijuana policies that are based on evidence instead of fear.”

Since 2012, eight states and the nation’s capital have adopted laws that make marijuana legal either recreationally or medically for adult use. Since 1996, 28 states have adopted laws that make marijuana legal for patients whose doctors recommend it.

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