One of the classic arguments used by anti-pot politicians and pundits is that legalization would harm young people. The argument they make is that if cannabis is legal, it’ll encourage teens to smoke more. But the data doesn’t back it up. In fact, the National Institutes of Health just published new data on teen drug us. And the results reveal that teens don’t smoke more weed despite the fact that cannabis is becoming legal in more places than ever before.
The Data: Teens Don’t Smoke More Weed
The data comes from the 2016 Monitoring the Future survey. This annual survey gauges the use of drugs among young people in the United States.
Here are some highlights from this year’s study:
- Marijuana use in the past month among eighth graders dropped. Last year, 6.5% of teens in that age group used cannabis. This year, that number is down to 5.4%.
- Daily marijuana use among eighth-graders fell from 1.1% in 2015 to 0.7% in 2016.
- Cannabis use among tenth graders was about the same this year as it was last year. But researchers pointed out that this stable number is the lowest it’s been in more than two decades.
- Use of marijuana among high school seniors is also holding steady. Among teens in this group, 6% report daily use and 22.5% said they’ve used marijuana in the last month. Those stats are basically the same as last year’s numbers.
The overall message communicated by these numbers is clear. Marijuana legalization does not lead to higher use among teens and young people. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Cannabis use among teens is lower now than it’s been in decades. And in 2016, teen use either remained steady or decreased.
What Do The Numbers Mean?
This study has some important political implications. That’s because one of the go-to arguments by anti-pot spokespeople is that legalization will harm young people.
This argument was in full force this fall, especially in states where people were voting on new cannabis bills. For example, a group of politicians and law enforcement agents from Colorado spoke out against legalization in Arizona.
They said that there’s been a “dramatic increase in youth use in Colorado.” And they used that claim to urge voters to say no to the state’s legalization bill.
Similarly, a pharmaceutical company that makes a highly addictive drug called Fentanyl spoke out against legalization bills. And the company’s argument? Cannabis legalization would harm children and young people.
Clearly, this is still a myth that has a lot of traction. But the numbers from this year’s Monitoring the Future survey show just how false this myth is.
“We’ve always argued that taking marijuana out of the unregulated criminal market and putting sales into the hands of responsible retailers would actually make it harder for young people to get,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.
“The new data bear this out. And it’s just common sense. Under legalization, businesses have every incentive to follow the rules and make sure their customers are of legal age lest they lose their lucrative licenses. Conversely, black market dealers don’t care about the IDs in their customers’ wallets. They only care about the money in there.”