With major shifts in cannabis legalization, it is no surprise that there has been pushback from groups around the country. The most common reason for opposing cannabis legalization (both recreationally and medicinally) is that youth populations will be severely impacted due to increased exposure to a drug they should not be using.
But according to data from the recent round of the Monitoring the Future survey, adolescents are reporting cannabis accessibility at the lowest levels in the past quarter century! Even as the rest of the country increased cannabis use and availability, middle school and high school students are not a part of that trend.
According to a spokesperson 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.”
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said her commission’s review of the Monitoring the Future survey was surprising due to the reported stagnation and decrease of young people experimenting with cannabis. The rates for cannabis use are highest among adults 18 through 24, and many opposed to cannabis argue that this behavior starts at an earlier age.
When reviewing the results of the survey, there is clear evidence that cannabis use among youth populations is not increasing substantially as a result of states passing laws to make cannabis more available.
While there was a brief bump in the numbers during the 2010 to 2012 period, the number of students using cannabis in that period was still 5 percent lower among 8th and 10th graders since 1996. High school seniors are still the most prevalent users of cannabis among youth populations, although they have only fluctuated 3 points on either side of 35 percent (38% in 1997, 32% in 2006).
Experts cannot be certain that cannabis legalization is the source of this decline in drug use, since drug use in general has plummeted among youth groups as well. However, there is now a clear indication that cannabis legalization, even for recreational adult use, does not in fact make it easier for young people to obtain and experiment with the drug.
Still, detractors of cannabis continue to push the narrative that cannabis harms youths. Thankfully, regulators in every state that has since legalized cannabis for recreational use has made certain to stress the importance of education programs and agencies that would keep growing minds from abusing cannabis.
The important takeaway from the Monitoring the Future survey results is that legalization is not impacting young people in a substantial way, but we also should not be crediting cannabis laws for the decline in use among teens. Most opponents of cannabis see their movement dwindling, but their concerns are valid and we should make sure that no matter what, cannabis laws do not negatively affect a very impressionable group.
Please also remember that when cannabis affects kids, it hits them hard. Recent news reports highlight those concerns, with children being hospitalized for unknowingly consuming cannabis. Many states are considering a complete ban on cannabis-infused products that might appeal to children, or be mistaken as a non-medicated sweet.
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