teen cannabis use

Prohibitionists often argue that legalization “sends the wrong message” to young people. But the latest Monitoring the Future survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health acknowledges the continued decline in teen cannabis use, despite legalization in four states since 2012.

The marijuana section of the survey’s press release reads as follows:

“Marijuana, the most widely used of the illicit drugs, dropped sharply in 2016 in use among 8th-graders to 9.4%, or about one in every 11 indicating any use in the past 12 months. Use also declined among 10th-graders as well, though not by a statistically significant amount, to 24% or about one in every four 10th-graders.

“The annual prevalence of marijuana use (referring to the percentage of using any marijuana in the prior 12 months) has been declining gradually among 8th-graders since 2010, and more sharply among 10th-graders since 2013. Among 12th-graders, however, the prevalence of marijuana use is higher (36%) and has held steady since 2011.These periods of declining use (or in the case of 12th-graders, stabilization) followed several years of increasing use by each of these age groups.

“Daily or near-daily use of marijuana—defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the previous 30 days—also declined this year among younger teens (significantly so in 8th grade to 0.7% and 2.5% among 10th-graders). However, there was no change among 12th-graders in daily use, which remains quite high at 6% or roughly one in every 17 12th-graders—about where it has been since 2010.”

The numbers even confounded NIDA Director, Dr. Nora Volkow, who told US News: “I don’t have an explanation. This is somewhat surprising.” Volkow had predicted that accessibility and use would go up “based on the changes in legalization [and], culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful.” But the data say otherwise.

Researchers from the University of Michigan have been conducting the Monitoring the Future survey for the last 42 years. More than 45,000 students at 380 schools were interviewed for the latest survey, which concluded that drug, alcohol and tobacco use among teens are “the lowest since the 1990s.”

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