Fears that legalizing marijuana would create a surge in teen smoking appear to have been rebuffed, according to a new national survey on drug use.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) data show that nationally, 7.4 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 used pot on a monthly basis in 2014, reports The Washington Post’s wonkblog. Although that represents an increase of 0.3 percentage points on the previous year, SAMHSA said it was not a statistically relevant figure and was still much lower than in 2002.
2014 was the first year that adults could legally buy weed in Colorado and Washington. While marijuana use among teenagers has not soared in the way some had feared, use has risen substantially among adults over the age of 26 from 5.6 percent to 6.6 percent.
At this point, analysts are unable to attribute the rise in cannabis use for adults to the legalization regimes in some states. Later this year, SAMHSA will release data breaking down marijuana use state by state, which will help to explain and pinpoint the rise in adult cannabis use.
SAMHSA’s data on teen drug use appears to reflect a report published by the Washington State Institute of Public Policy (WSIPP), a research body set-up by the state legislature, that found that legalization had relatively little impact on teen marijuana use.
According to the report, “cannabis use and access among students in 6th through 12th grades have changed little from 2002 through the most recent survey in 2014.” However, while marijuana use may not have surged, there has been a relatively sharp decline in the number of youngsters who think regular cannabis use is harmful.
WSIPP stresses that legalization is still in its infancy and the results so far should not be attributed as long-term outcomes. (RELATED: Teen Marijuana Use Has No Link To Mental Health Problems)
Speaking to The Daily Caller News Foundation, Lauren Vazquez of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project said:
States around the nation are rolling back marijuana prohibition, and teen use is not increasing. It appears the regulation of alcohol and tobacco is leading to reductions in teen use, and regulating marijuana in a similar fashion could produce similar results.
Recreational marijuana is now legal in Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and the District of Columbia. The U.S. is still in the infancy of drug legalization and it remains far from certain that the majority of states will follow the legalization route.
Portugal, the only country to fully decriminalize the use of all drugs and a popular example of success for legalization advocates, has seen both drug use and deaths fall since 2001 when decriminalization was passed.
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