A major concern of legalizing marijuana was that increasing the accessibility of marijuana would result in higher incidences of abuse by the youth. A recent survey that federally funded has shown that this has not been the case in 2021. In spite of more pro-cannabis laws being enacted and dozens of cannabis reform proposals being introduced in the last year, fewer youth abused “illicit drugs” including marijuana.
The survey which was carried out by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and called “Monitoring the Future (MTF)” and tracks adolescent drug use since 1975. The survey for the past-year considered cannabis in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. Here is what the results revealed:
8th graders: 11.4% reported cannabis use in the past 2020, compared to 7.1% in 2021
10th graders: 28.0% reported cannabis use in 2020, compared to 17.3% in 2021
12th graders: 30.5% reported cannabis use in 2020, compared to 25.2% in 2021
In the same breath, the participants also used less alcohol, nicotine, as well as other illicit drugs. However, the researchers from the University of Michigan observed that the drop in cannabis use was significantly steeper. The survey involved 32,260 participants who were picked from 319 different schools across the U.S.
The pandemic which has caused seismic shifts in lifestyle and economic habits across demographics could have contributed to these changes in drug use patterns. The Director of NIDA, Nora Volkow remarked: “We have never seen such dramatic decreases in drug use among teens in just a one-year period. These data are unprecedented and highlight one unexpected potential consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused seismic shifts in the day-to-day lives of adolescents.”
Paul Armentano from NORML expressed similar views in a press release:
“These latest findings add to the growing body of scientific literature showing that marijuana regulation policies can be implemented in a manner that provides access for adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse.”
A different study that was conducted in Colorado last year showed that marijuana consumption by the youth has not increased in spite of recreational sales. However, methods of consumption by the youth have diversified.
The surveys above dispel the myth that the legalization of adult-use marijuana will result in higher youth abuse rates. With proper regulations and mechanisms in place, the youth can still be prevented from accessing marijuana from legal retail outlets. In the past, most youths have accessed marijuana illegally from the black market.