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Despite Legalization, Adolescent Marijuana Use Hits 15-Year Low

Past-month cannabis consumption by 12-to-17-year-olds is down by more than 20 percent since 2002.

NSDUHNSDUHSurvey data released today indicate that teenagers were less likely to smoke pot last year than at any point since 2002, despite the message supposedly sent by the relaxation of marijuana laws during that period.

In the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 6.5 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds reported using marijuana during the previous month, down from 8.2 percent in 2002. That 21-percent decline occurred during a period when 20 states and the District of Columbia legalized marijuana for medical use and eight states legalized it for recreational use. Adolescent cannabis consumption is even down since 2014, when state-licensed marijuana shops began serving recreational customers in Colorado and Washington. So far Attorney General Jeff Sessions' fear that legalization would make cannabis more appealing to teenagers has not been borne out.

By contrast, past-month marijuana use has been rising more or less steadily among 18-to-25-year-olds since 2006 and among adults 26 or older since 2011. Last year about 21 percent of the younger group and 7 percent of the older group reported past-month use. There is some evidence that marijuana is substituting for alcohol, since past-month drinking is down 8 percent among 18-to-25-year-olds since 2006 and 3 percent among Americans 26 or older since 2014.

"Critics of legalization worry about the message being sent to youth by marijuana policy reform efforts, but the real message is that marijuana should only be used by responsible adults, and it seems to be sinking in," says Morgan Fox, senior communications manager at the Marijuana Policy Project. "Regulating marijuana for adults reinforces that message and creates effective mechanisms for making it more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana. Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and regulation gives adults the legal option to choose the safer substance."

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  • Rich||

    By contrast, past-month marijuana use has been rising more or less steadily among 18-to-25-year-olds since 2006 and among adults 26 or older since 2011.

    So, you're realizing that pot is for *old people*?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Finally, the War on Weed is gaining ground!

  • Zeb||

    Man, teenagers are lame these days.

  • Tony||

    How the fuck did this generation actually get squarer than their parents, who were also awful?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    You should see their boomer grandparents!

  • Don't look at me.||

    Kids nowadays, too lazy to get high.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I guess they can finally repeal all those stupid laws to make me show ID for spray paint, butane lighter fuel, cold medicine, etc.

  • BYODB||

    I sure do believe that 12-to-17 year old kids won't lie on a form about something they know is 'bad and wrong' to do, and they fear punishment or retaliation for it even if assured that won't be the case.

  • Sports Reporter Charles Manson||

    But maybe, if these surveys have been going on for years, they'll all lie at the same rate, so if it records a reduction in MJ use that's an accurate result?

    I'd have to research that, and I mean research the science of statistics, not research MJ.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    That's called repeatability and it is a pretty central concept in stats. You should read into it. Statistics are great.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    THAT, is not a very libertarian thing to say.

    Statistics are editorials by statisticians.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    So, you fail as a libertarian and as a human being, in case that wasn't clear.

  • Zeb||

    Except smoking pot is probably less socially stigmatized than it ever has been and you would have to assume a greater rate of lying on surveys than in the past.

    You may well be right, but assuming the trend is real, I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that people my age or a bit older (who are parents of teenagers now) were teenagers when drug use among teens was particularly high in the early 90s. It fits with my personal observations of children of my friends (who are largely pretty open about their choices of intoxicants) who are all getting to that sort of age and who don't seem particularly interested, quite possibly because smoking weed is what boring old people like their parents do.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Supposedly this new generation, whatever is after Millenials, is the most conservative in a long time.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Yeah, a childhood filled with insistence that Islamic terrorism and 20-trillion-dollar debts are Vast Right-Wing Conspiracies, combined with promises of government solutions that never show up, will tend to make kids' ears prick up at alternatives.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Gen Z The Libertarian generation"!

  • GILMORE™||

    Sign of libertarian demographic doom

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "Regulating marijuana for adults reinforces that message and creates effective mechanisms for making it more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana.

    I'm not convinced this is true.

    Living in a place where marijuana is legal (taxed and regulated!), MJ is much more pervasive now than ever. My daughter smells it in the halls at her school. I went to school in the 70s, so I was surrounded by long hair and bell bottoms, and I don't remember marijuana being as pervasive then as it is now-- and by that I mean out in the open.

    I guess my problem with this is, if we do a study about youth consumption that's narrowly tailored to a place that legalized marijuana, instead of doing a national study that covers places where marijuana is legal and illegal, and we find that adolescent usage has gone up, will that be a case against legalization?

    Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and regulation gives adults the legal option to choose the safer substance."

    *crosses arms and judges quietly*

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It might be "safer" but alcohol is way better as a party drug. It's so good that even when I'm drinking alone every night it becomes a party. While weed just makes me fall asleep.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    There's a house around the corner from me that has a firepit in their backyard and you can smell the weed 100 yards away. They seem to be able to party with it.

  • ||

    While weed just makes me fall asleep

    You must be smoking Indica. Try some Sativa.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    My dealer always calls it heroin. Is that Indica or Sativa?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Smacktiva.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    but the real message is that marijuana should only be used by responsible adults, and it seems to be sinking in,

    Why is this?

  • Rockabilly||

    Man, kids these days, they're very uptight. Why I smoked my first reefer when I was 15. Played in a punk band, travelled the world, then went to college in Potland Oregon before it became infested with SJW and Antifa wanna bes blocking city busses because Hillary Clinton, the blood thirsty war monger and sworn enemy of individual liberty, lost.

    Of course I shouldn't lump all kids. I'm sure that there are some who value individual liberty and shun the collectivist mindset. Here's to you young freedom lovers. May you enjoy life, whether you smoke the bud or are straight arrows. I knew some straight end bands like Minor Threat and Government Issue. As my uncle Wally, the boat captain told me, whatever floats your boat, just don't steer it too close to me.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Of course I shouldn't lump all kids. I'm sure that there are some who value individual liberty and shun the collectivist mindset. Here's to you young freedom lovers.

    *raises glass*

    To the seven of you! Let freedom ring!

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    {politely refuses glass}

    No thank you, I don't drink or use drugs. But I'm a Millennial who thinks meth should be legal!

  • Stephdumas||

    I guess the quality of marijuana isn't what it once was. ;-)

  • Robert||

    Unless there was a big spike in 2002, it was probably a more-than-15-years low. How innumerate are HyR researchers?

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