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Study: Washington Teens Find It Easier Getting Booze And Cigarettes Than Weed

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Washington state’s experiment with marijuana legalization is confounding its critics, with a new study showing teens haven’t found it any easier getting their hands on a joint.

A new study titled “Adolescents’ Ease of Access to Marijuana Before and After Legalization of Marijuana in Washington State” and presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies, examines data from the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey ranging from 2010 to 2014.

Washington passed marijuana legalization in 2012 and became a hotbed for the nation’s booming cannabis industry. Conducted every year, the survey asks how easy it is for teens to access to marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes and other illicit drugs. (RELATED: Fresh Data Shows No Increase In Teen Marijuana Use After Legalization)

The proportion of teens who said it was “easy” to access marijuana in 2014 was practically the same as it had been in 2010 at 54 and 55 percent respectively. Teens were more likely to say that both alcohol, cigarettes, and other illicit drugs were “easy” to access.

“It is both surprising and reassuring that teens didn’t perceive that marijuana was easier to access after it was legalized for recreational use by adults,” said senior investigator Andrew Adesman, MD.

“It was interesting and somewhat concerning, though, that while teens responded that it was harder to access cigarettes, alcohol, and psychoactive drugs abuse in 2014 compared to 4 years earlier, they didn’t report increased difficulty in obtaining marijuana during that same time period,” he added.

Although teens may perceive marijuana as more difficult to get than alcohol or tobacco, principal investigator Natalie Colaneri hopes the study will renew efforts to reduce teens’ access to marijuana in Washington.

“Given the detrimental health effects associated with adolescent marijuana use, it is important that states that choose to legalize marijuana take steps to minimize use by teens. States should specifically implement measures that make it more difficult for teens to access marijuana in the first place,” she said.

Marijuana use among high school students in 2016 remained flat despite the implementation of a series of legalization measures across the country. The Monitoring the Future Survey, released December 2016, showed there has not been any significant change in marijuana prevalence across 8th, 10th and 12th graders, with each group reporting daily cannabis use of 1.1 percent, three percent and six percent.

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