A new cost-benefit analysis of Washington’s marijuana legalization law by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy shows that cannabis use among young people is not on the rise, as some who favor prohibition predicted with the passage of I-502 in 2012.
In fact, according to a biannual survey of school-age children in Washington, marijuana use among those in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades has been stable or declining since the passage of I-502. Among 10th graders, for example, marijuana use (in the preceding year) went from 20% of those surveyed in 2010 to about 17% of those surveyed last year.
There are a couple of reasons that cannabis use among teenagers has not increased since legalization was enacted in Washington and other states: 1) It wasn’t all that hard for teens to buy marijuana before 2013. 2) With legalization comes regulation and sellers with incentive to check I.D., which makes it much harder for those under 21 to actually purchase cannabis.
“In my overall appraisal, there’s not much evidence I-502 has caused changes in the outcomes we looked at,” said Adam Darnell, the lead researcher and author of the report.
The Institute also published some job numbers relating to the marijuana industry in the state, separate from the report on youth use. According to those numbers, the legal cannabis industry accounts for the equivalent of 6,227 full-time jobs, with the median hourly wage coming in at $13.44. Wages paid from 2014 to the end of 2016 totaled almost $300 million.
As time passes, the evidence that the fears of those who opposed marijuana legalization in the state were unfounded mounts steadily. Not only that, but the evidence of the benefits that those who supported legalization predicted are coming to pass.
And there is no reason to believe this trend won’t continue; we are seeing it in Colorado and it will be the trend in every state that legalizes for adult use. Legalization is superior to prohibition in every way because the open legal market is superior to the “black market” in every way. Leaving the marijuana industry in the hands of dealers and cartels makes no sense and more people are seeing that than ever before.
Reports like this one can go a long way toward helping even more people see why every state should legalize cannabis for adult use.