If you were involved in the marijuana legalization discussion 8 years ago, you know that one of the most-used warnings that prohibitionists trotted out was that legalization will send the wrong message to kids, and as a result of that and mountains of weed laying around everywhere, more kids will start using cannabis. Now, eight years later, we know that warning to be a completely unfounded myth.
First, the evidence. We have covered this topic here at The Marijuana Times many, many, many times. But old myths are hard to clear away from people’s memories, so let’s do it again. According to a new study, entitled “School Climate, Substance Use, and Student Well-being in California, 2015-17”,teen use of marijuana in the state is undergoing a steep decline.
“Lifetime marijuana use was reported by 4%, 17%, and 32% of students by ascending grade, declines of 4 points in 7th and 6 points in both 9th and 11th. Current use occurred among 2%, 9%, and 17%, down 3 to 4 points,” the report said.
NORML breaks down those numbers further: “Among 7th graders, 4.2 percent reported ever having used cannabis during the years 2015 to 2017, as compared to 7.9 percent during the years 2013 to 2015 (-47 percent). Among 9th graders, 17.4 percent reported ever having used cannabis during the years 2015 to 2017, as compared to 23.1 percent during the years 2013 to 2015 (-25 percent). Among 11th graders, 31.9 percent reported ever having used cannabis during the years 2015 to 2017, as compared to 37.9 percent during the years 2013 to 2015 (-16 percent).
“These initial reports confirm that legalizing and regulating cannabis doesn’t increase youth marijuana use, but rather it has the opposite effect,” said Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML. “The fact that the biggest drop in reported use came from younger age groups is a particularly encouraging indicator of the success of regulation.”
Second, we have the logic that preceded the evidence. Legalization proponents have long contended that regulation would keep youth use from rising because, while we all know that drug dealers don’t check IDs, we also know that places that sell things like liquor and tobacco do check IDs out of fear of fines and license forfeiture. The very act of legalization reduces cannabis access for those under the age limit.
Marijuana legalization has not and will not lead to increased cannabis use by teens. It is a myth that never had a strong logical foundation to begin with and now has a growing pile of evidence that directly contradicts it.