Federal Data Reveals Surprising Decline in Teen Cannabis Use Despite Legalization Trend

Teen Cannabis Use Declines Despite Legalization Trend, New Federal Data Shows

Amid a wave of marijuana across various states, an intriguing trend has emerged: rates of current and lifetime cannabis use among high school students are on a downward trajectory, according to recently released federal data. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), published last week, highlights a consistent decline in teen cannabis use along with other monitored substances like alcohol and prescription . This unexpected decline challenges the notion that legalizing cannabis for adults would lead to increased usage among teenagers. The findings are particularly noteworthy given that high school student cannabis use was actually increasing before legal marijuana dispensaries started opening.

The YRBS survey, which tracks youth behavior over a decade, reveals that in 2021, 15.8 percent of high school students reported using marijuana at least once in the past 30 days. This percentage is significantly lower than the 21.7 percent reported in 2009 and a considerable drop from the peak of 23.4 percent in 2013. Furthermore, lifetime marijuana among teens has also decreased. In 2021, 27.8 percent of teenagers stated they had used cannabis at least once in their lifetime, marking a nearly 10 percentage point decline from 2019 when the rate stood at 36.8 percent. These figures contradict the common argument against marijuana legalization that it would lead to increased usage among teenagers.

Health officials are encouraged by this positive trend, although they acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting isolation policies likely contributed to the decline in substance misuse among youth. Nevertheless, the consistent decline in teen cannabis use over the years contradicts the expressed by prohibitionists. Even before any state had opened marijuana retailers for adults, high school student cannabis consumption was at its highest point. However, since the advent of regulated retail sales and the expansion of legal markets, fewer young people are reporting cannabis use.

Various studies, including federally funded ones, have consistently demonstrated that state-level cannabis legalization is not associated with increased youth use. For instance, a funded by the National Institute on Abuse (NIDA) found that adolescents who spent more of their adolescence in states with legalized marijuana were no more likely to have used cannabis at age 15 compared to those who had little exposure to legalization. Moreover, studies conducted in Colorado and California, where marijuana is legal, have shown that with ID policies has effectively prevented underage individuals from purchasing cannabis from licensed outlets.

The decline in adolescent marijuana use is not limited to specific states but is observed nationwide. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported a drop in youth marijuana use in 2020, coinciding with the pandemic and the increasing number of states enacting legalization measures. Similarly, an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that the of legalization on adolescent cannabis consumption is statistically insignificant. Furthermore, a study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found no measurable difference in the percentage of high school students consuming cannabis from 2009 to 2019.

Despite concerns and debates surrounding marijuana legalization, the data consistently shows a decline in teen cannabis use. This unexpected trend challenges the assumption that legalization would lead to increased usage among young people. Continued monitoring and the implementation of evidence-based policies and programs are crucial to further reduce factors contributing to adolescent and promote protective measures. As the landscape of alcohol and drug marketplaces evolves, these efforts can build upon the recent declines and contribute to a healthier future for the youth.

Malvin Felix
I'm Malvin, a cannabis news enthusiast who finds joy in staying updated about the latest industry trends. My passion led me to become a dedicated writer, entrepreneur, and investor in the cannabis space. Through my writing, I aim to educate and spark discussions, while my entrepreneurial ventures and strategic investments reflect my commitment to driving positive change in the industry.

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