One of the most frequently touted arguments against cannabis legalization is that it will have a negative impact on our youth. But is this a justified concern or is it misguided, political fear-mongering?
According to recently released federal survey data, cannabis use among adolescents in Colorado is actually at the lowest level in over a decade. Official numbers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health confirm that only 9 percent of Colorado teens between the ages of 12 and 17 use cannabis monthly, which shows a consistent decrease since 2007. And it’s not just teen cannabis use that’s going down, rates of alcohol, tobacco, and heroin use among younger generations is declining as well.
“Teen cannabis use appears to be dropping now that state and local authorities are overseeing the production and sale of marijuana,” stated Brian Vicente of Vicente Sederberg LLC, one of the drafters of Colorado’s marijuana ballot measure. “There are serious penalties for selling to minors, and regulated cannabis businesses are being vigilant in checking IDs.”
This is good news considering Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational cannabis and the entire nation – both supporters and opponents of legalization – have been looking at the Centennial State as a sort of cannabis experiment to see if it’s something they’re willing to implement in their own states.
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Overall, teen cannabis use is either lower or stagnant throughout the entire nation and has been continuing with this trend for the last 2 years. In addition to Colorado; California, Texas, Maryland, and New Jersey have seen the sharpest declines. The states with the highest rates of adolescents who consume cannabis are Alaska, Maine, and New Mexico. The first two states have legal cannabis, but New Mexico does not, which would indicate that it has little do with the actual laws in place (considering that even in legal states, teens are still prohibited from using and purchasing cannabis) and is more influenced by other external factors.
That’s not to say that cannabis is losing its footing with the American people, however. While teen use is down, use is actually going up among adults age 18 to 26. Alcohol and tobacco use is falling across the board for every age group though, which is amazing to hear.
So in case you were worried about what kind of impact legalization might have on our teen population, fear not. As it turns out, teens are less interested in cannabis than adults.