Studies Show Pot Legalization Has Not Impacted Teen Use

2015.1.6.weed.mainAlthough adult use of marijuana increased following the years of legalization, what’s interesting is that teen use has fallen. (Photo: Chuck Grimmett / Flickr)When Colorado and Washington State legalized the use of marijuana, there were a number of people who decried the dangers of the substance. Most contended that legalizing the substance would increase teen use and highlighted marijuana as a gateway drug.

While there is no question that studies have shown that marijuana can cause paranoia and memory issues in some people, a few years on the data is in, and as it turns out, it’s not what the naysayers expected.

Although adult use of marijuana increased following the years of legalization, what’s interesting is that teen use has fallen. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the use of marijuana has fallen amongst teens in almost every sector. Although the study focused on nationwide statistics, a state by state breakdown in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that it still holds true in states that have legalized the drug.

It shouldn’t really come as that big of a surprise if we look at drug use on a larger scale. In countries where marijuana has been decriminalized, such as The Netherlands, we see much lower teen use than in the United States. However, prior to legalization, dozens of blogs sounded the alarm on teen health. One article, from the Daily Signal, reported that our youth would be in great peril:

“Perhaps people are also aware of new scientific studies pointing to the inherent dangers of marijuana. For example, the British health research journal The Lancet Psychiatry recently concluded that teens who smoke marijuana are “also 60 percent less likely to graduate college and seven times more likely to attempt suicide.”…Marijuana is highly addictive, causes mental health problems and is a gateway drug to other illegal and dangerous drugs. That report found that regular adolescent marijuana users have lower educational attainment than non-using peers, that they were more likely to use other illegal drugs, the use produced intellectual impairment, that use doubled the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia.”

Yet the argument, while revolving around the safety of marijuana, failed to take into the consideration the realities of legalization. One study that emerged in 2012, explored the relation of legalization to the use of pot in adolescents. According to their press release,

“Researchers examined the relationship between legalization and a variety of outcomes including: marijuana use at school, whether the respondent was offered drugs on school property, alcohol use, and cocaine use. Their results provided no evidence that legalization led to increases in the use of marijuana at school, the likelihood of being offered drugs on school property, or the use of other substances.”

The promising figures have allowed more states to jump on the legalization bandwagon including Alaska, Oregon and Washington DC. The laws which regulate pot in Alaska and Oregon mimic the current situation in Colorado and Washington State. However, in DC, because it is a district, rather than state, status it will get a bit trickier.

Congress, which has the ability to nullify laws in DC, will likely hold a hearing to determine the legality of marijuana inside the district. However, regardless of the outcome, those who advocate for legalization are thrilled by the recent measures.

Of course nothing is without risk. Alcohol can be deadly, and marijuana can be harmful, so no one should be advocating the constant abuse of drugs. Yet for states where jails are less populated by drug arrests and teen usage is down, legalization is seeming more and more like a common sense move.