Opponents of legalization might be surprised to find the results of the newest studies: that one year after legalization, there has been no increase in teenage marijuana use. Contrary to popular belief that legalisation would cause a spike in teenage use, recent statistics are a win for the pot industry.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released recently that 7.4% of teenagers aged 12 – 17 frequent Marijuana as of 2015. This is only a .3% increase in numbers since the year prior to legalisation, which is not enough of a significant increase for it to be linked to legalisation. Extensive studies on marijuana use among teens in the past has also showed that increase of use, if it was apparent, was not linked to the passage of marijuana bills.In fact, in 2002 (when legalisation was just on the tips of everyone’s tongue), the number of teenagers smoking pot was significantly higher in the USA than today. So, then, nothing about the numbers suggest that marijuana laws will cause an increase in teenage pot use.
Despite no empirical evidence showing that teenage pot use has increased, SAMHSA reported a significant increase in the number of adults above the age of 26 smoking weed frequently. The number of adults smoking marijuana at least monthly went from 5.6% in 2013 to 6.6% 2014. So, it seems that legalising weed has definitely increased the number of adults on the bandwagon.
This is exactly what the marijuana industry wanted to see: more adults making informed decisions about their own marijuana use, and teenagers being relatively unaffected by legalisation. Effectively, there seems to be no negative effects as a result of legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington. In fact, taxing marijuana is putting more money back into the community.
The government and regulating bodies tend to underestimate the intelligence of teenagers. Not long ago, tobacco regulation bodies started putting warning images on cigarette packets, thinking that colorful packaging led teenagers to smoke. But there was no significant decrease in teenage tobacco smoking . It is still early in the legalisation piece to predict the future implications on teenage use, but at this stage it seems to have had no effect.
Given the benefits that legalisation has had on the community, it would be unwarranted to dispel legalisation on the basis of teenage use. Past statistics are enough to show that making it illegal doesn’t stop teenagers (or anyone) from doing it and that legalisation doesn’t encourage those who do not smoke to start. These statistics should help us move forward as a community towards marijuana education, the same way we have practiced the safe use of alcohol, tobacco and sex over the years with our teenagers.
The studies that have just been released are a win for the pot industry. It seems that the arguments that opponents to legalisation keep presenting keep being thrown back by the marijuana industry. Not only has marijuana had beneficial impacts on the medical industry as well as the economy, it is not detrimentally affecting our teenagers. Legalisation has had no effect on the number of teenagers smoking marijuana but has encouraged adults to use a substance that is legal and healthy.