Report After Report: Legal Pot Doesn’t Increase Youth Use

The rallying cry of the prohibitionist is still "think of the children!" But more and more research show the concerns about youth use of cannabis are overblown and sometimes based on outright falsehoods.

It’s the enduring war cry of the prohibitionist: think of the children!  But recent reports (along with dozens of less recent ones) show that, far from increasing youth cannabis use, recent legalization states have seen a drop in the number of kids getting high.


Marijuana legalization! When a young person’s fancy darkly turns to the throes of addiction, doom and despair. These are the lines composed again and again by drug warriors, tilting at windmills, shouting nothings — chief among them that legal cannabis bought in a store will harm “the children.”

But in both Colorado and in Washington — the first two states to embark on the grand experiment of not locking people up for using and distributing the world’s favorite illicit drug — young people are not using more marijuana.

Increased use by young people is one of the biggest arguments against legalization touted by prohibitionists, and as the Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham wrote this week, it simply is not happening.

Concerns about adolescent pot use have been one of the chief drivers of opposition to legalization campaigns in Washington, Colorado and elsewhere… But the data coming out of Washington and Colorado strongly suggest that those states’ legalization experiments, which began in earnest in 2014, are not causing any spike in use among teenagers. Teen marijuana use in Colorado decreased during 2014 and 2015, the most recent time period included in federal surveys.

That means teen cannabis use in Colorado dropped sharply after legalization took effect in 2013 and stayed down — even after the state’s first-in-the-nation retail cannabis industry took off in 2014.

And in Washington, a state survey of 37,000 middle school and high-school students revealed legalization had “no effect” on teen use.

From the Post:

The Washington State Healthy Youth Survey found that the 2016 rate of marijuana use was basically unchanged since 2012, when the state voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use… The survey’s numbers show that neither the vote for legalization nor the opening of pot shops in 2014 have had any measurable effect on the rate of marijuana use among teenagers in the state.

This is how you prove a negative.

This is not to say that adolescents using marijuana is cool, good or anything to encourage or condone — no researcher or medical professional will advise it. In fact, they will tell you about the greater propensity of teen cannabis users to later become addicted to the drug or suffer mental health issues.

This would be a serious problem — so would broken glass in breakfast cereal or millions of illegal voters deciding elections, if any of it was actually happening.

If anything, this suggests that the great promise of legalizers is coming true: marijuana legalization is indeed taking weed out of the hands of cartels and criminals (who don’t card minors) and making it boring old contraband like alcohol and cigarettes.

Always nice when a plan pans out.

TELL US, are you concerned about kids using cannabis recreationally?

Chris Roberts has written about medical cannabis, drug policy, and legalization ever since spending a few months in Humboldt County in 2009, with bylines for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and SF Weekly. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cbloggy.

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