Most people opposing legal marijuana argue that their greatest fear is it will lead to more youngsters smoking it. Research done recently in Washington State proves them wrong. Cannabis legalization and youth use don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
Forbes commented on what statistics in states with legal medical and recreational marijuana show. The Washington State Healthy Youth Survey included 37,000 middle and high school kids. The youngsters’ cannabis use stayed unchanged since 2012, even after dispensaries became legal in 2014.
Unchanged numbers of users
The number of teenagers using marijuana stayed unchanged in Washington even after recreational laws were passed. Critics claim use of cannabis at a young age could lead to addiction later in life, and increased availability could instigate use. This logical argument was proved wrong by data collected in Washington and other states where legalization didn’t cause measurable change in the use of cannabis by students.
Another study in Washington last year claimed there was an increase in use by 8th and 10th graders, but the federal study maintains that use figures were unchanged. Colorado, considered as the “Green Rush” state, showed no increase in use by teens either. In fact, federal and state data shows a decline in teen cannabis use since legalization.
Decline in rebellion
So, what’s with the strange figures on cannabis legalization and youth? It could be because marijuana, cigarettes, alcohol use, or drug use is often a statement of being rebellious by teens. If the substance is legal and acceptable, there is no danger, or “kick” in being caught, or being rebellious.
A similar study done by Columbia University in 2015 on millions of adolescents nationwide found that the past 30-day use of cannabis by teenagers stayed constant over 24 months in states where medical cannabis was approved. The rates of use were somewhat higher to start with. In other words, Cannabis legalization and youth effects are the opposite of what anyone predicted. Use has actually dropped!
Medical marijuana helps people
Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, Amanda Reiman, professor at UC Berkley, said these stats should have a positive impact on moving cannabis policies forward. She says medical marijuana has the potential to help millions of people who suffer from pain and other conditions. It doesn’t make more teenagers addicts. She was adamant that this should put an end to the “What about the kids?” justification used by those opposing medicinal use, preventing access to sick and even dying patients.
Cannabis legalization and youth use effect known for a long time
It has actually been a known fact for quite some time that legalizing medical marijuana has no effect on teen consumption. In California, marijuana use by adolescents is less frequent than before medical cannabis became legal in 1996.
The wrong measurement
There has also not been an increase in kids using Cannabis after decriminalization in the Netherlands. Advocates for legalization also argue that user rates should not be the primary measurement of the effect of cannabis policies, but the effectiveness of policies should measure the decline in problems associated with marijuana, such as the US’s 600,000 arrests for possession.