Earlier this week, reefer madness acolytes issued a warning that “young adult use has skyrocketed over the past 10 years,” but the latest federal data proves the claim is demonstrably false. In fact, the opposite is true. As adult recreational legalization of marijuana spreads across the United States, teen consumption is on the decline. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual nationwide survey, discovered drops in teen marijuana use in all but one of the five states (Alaska) that had legal cannabis from 2014 to 2016.
“These survey results should come as welcome news to anyone who worried teen marijuana use would increase following legalization,” Brian Vicente, a Denver lawyer and a marijuana legalization proponent, said in a statement.
“The days of arresting thousands of adults in order to prevent teens from using marijuana are over. As a proponent of Amendment 64 and a parent of two young children, they certainly came as welcome news to me,” Vincente added.
According to a report in the Washington Post by Christopher Ingraham:
State-level numbers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that a little more than 9 percent of Colorado teens age 12 to 17 used marijuana monthly in 2015 and 2016, a statistically significant drop from the prior period. That’s the lowest rate of monthly marijuana use in the state since 2007 and 2008.
And it’s not just marijuana: Rates of teen alcohol, tobacco and heroin use are down sharply in the state, as well.
Colorado, which was the first in the nation to open recreational marijuana markets in 2014, is viewed as a bellwether by both opponents and supporters of legalization.
For state-level data, the survey uses pooled two-year periods to increase sample sizes and statistical accuracy. Last year the survey showed that Colorado was ranked No. 1 in the nation on adolescent marijuana use, a fact seized by marijuana opponents to argue that legalization was failing to protect children from drug use.
With the sharp drop in this year’s data, Colorado has fallen to No. 7 in the national ranking of teen marijuana use, behind Alaska, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The report showed a similar decline in Washington state. The rate of past-month marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds in Washington dropped from roughly nine percent in 2014-15 to just under eight percent in 2015-16. In Oregon and Alaska rates stayed about the same. For state-by-state data, click here.