Youth Marijuana Use Fell By 17 Percent Over Past Decade, Study Finds

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Marijuana legalization is not igniting a smoking crisis among young Americans, according to a study showing steady declines in youth pot use over more than a decade.

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration investigated how often kids ages 12 to 17 used weed between 2002 and 2014. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, revealed that the prevalence of past-year marijuana use for youth dropped 17 percent over the recorded period, NORML reported Tuesday.

The researchers also found a 25 percent decline in the prevalence of youth abusing marijuana, which they refer to as problematic cannabis use.

“In the United States, compared to 2002, even after adjusting for covariates, cannabis use decreased among youth during 2005-2014, and cannabis use disorder declined among youth cannabis users,” the authors concluded. “Associations between declines in tobacco use and decreased cannabis use suggest the importance of tobacco use control and prevention among youth.”

The authors say the findings are in line with previous studies showing that youth marijuana use is not increasing in correlation with expanding legalization laws.

Marijuana accessibility is at a record low for 8th and 10th graders and has stayed roughly stagnant among students in 12th grade, according to the annual Monitoring the Future survey. Marijuana use fell slightly among 8th and 10th graders, while remaining the same for high school seniors in 2016.

Many health experts tied to the Monitoring the Future survey also believe that the drop in youth cannabis use can be attributed to the overall decline in the youth smoking rate. Only 1.8 percent of high school seniors said they smoked half a pack or more a day in 2016, down from 11 percent in 1991.

Members of the marijuana industry also argue that state legalization laws are helping make the product more difficult to obtain by placing it under the regulatory purview of state governments.

Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C., where it is also legal for recreational use. Voters in Maine, Nevada, California and Massachusetts all approved measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use on Election Day, joining five other states. Nearly one in five Americans now have access to legal pot.

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Steve Birr