Fewer young people are using cannabis in the US now compared to 2012, when the first states moved to legalise cannabis, according to a federally funded study – once again debunking the myth that prohibition is required to stop teenagers consuming cannabis.
The 2018 Monitoring the Future survey found that annual, monthly and daily cannabis use remained lower among the nation’s 8th, 10th and 12th grade students compared to pre-legalisation levels. Teenagers’ perceived availability of cannabis continued to decline in 2018 as well.
Commissioned by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the study was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan.
Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment: “It’s quite clear that our country does not need to arrest hundreds of thousands of adult marijuana consumers in order to prevent teens from using marijuana.”
This is not the first study from the past year to have shown that legalisation doesn’t drive young people to consume cannabis, including a meta-analysis of 55 studies that found the “passage of [medical marijuana laws] has not increased cannabis use among teenagers during the periods after their passage that has been studied to date”.
Fewer adolescents are also saying they perceive occasional or frequent cannabis use as harmful, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. The belief that lower perceptions of risk are correlated with more frequent use therefore cannot be sustained when usage is in fact steady or dropping.
There was a slight uptick in self-reported cannabis consumption for 8th and 10th graders compared to last year, while rates of cannabis use among 12th grade students dropped.
While opponents of legalisation claim that relaxing cannabis laws leads more young people to seek out cannabis, the survey data reinforces the argument that regulated legal access for adults is more effective at ensuring teenagers don’t seek it out than blanket prohibition. Steve Double and his fellow Tories should take note.
“The most significant public policy approach to reduce teen use of cannabis is to take it out of the hands of the illicit market and put it behind a counter where employees check IDs,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “This new report and public acknowledgment by NIDA only further solidifies our demand for an expeditious legalization in the remaining stubborn states with prohibition.”
Rates of cannabis use among high school students have remained relatively steady in recent years, but there was a significant increase in vaping nicotine and also a bump in vaping cannabis compared to 2017. Last year, the first time researchers asked specifically about cannabis vaping, roughly 5% of 12th grade students reported vaping marijuana in the past 30 days; in 2018, 7.5% said the same.
Studies have shown that vaping is safer than smoking for both cannabis and nicotine (and also gets you higher).
Broader trends show young people choosing to vape instead of smoke. Another finding from the survey is that adolescent cigarette smoking rates have continued to decline – a trend that’s been ongoing for the past two decades.