Research

National Survey Shows Teen Use Dropping, Possible Substitution for Alcohol in Adults

The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health released Thursday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that teen marijuana use rates decreased nationally in 2016. Past-month use rates among adults increased slightly, but alcohol use rates among all age groups decreased, indicating the possibility that adults are substituting marijuana for alcohol.

Past-month use rates for the 12-17 age group decreased by 0.5% from 2015 to 6.5% nationally in 2016. This is the lowest level of marijuana use in this age group since 2002. The data also shows a steady decrease since 2014, when the first states to make marijuana legal for adults began allowing regulated retail sales. The full report is available here.

“Critics of legalization worry about the message being sent to youth by marijuana policy reform efforts, but the real message is that marijuana should only be used by responsible adults, and it seems to be sinking in. Regulating marijuana for adults reinforces that message and creates effective mechanisms for making it more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana,” said Morgan Fox, senior communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and regulation gives adults the legal option to choose the safer substance.”

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Teen Use Down in Washington Since Legalization

Yet another study was released this week showing that teen marijuana use did not increase after legalization, this time from Washington.

Seattle Times reports:

Youth use of pot and cannabis-abuse treatment admissions have not increased in Washington since marijuana was legalized, according to a new analysis by the state Legislature’s think tank.

Under Initiative 502, the state’s legal-pot law, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) is required to conduct periodic cost-benefit analyses of legalization on issues ranging from drugged-driving to prenatal use of marijuana.

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The think tank’s findings on youth use were not surprising as they were based on a biannual survey by the state Department of Health of students in the sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades released earlier this year.

Pot use by students in all four grade levels was stable or has fallen slightly since I-502 was enacted, the WSIPP report said.

For instance, 17 percent of the 10,835 high-school sophomores surveyed last year said they consumed pot in the previous month. The level was 18 percent in 2006 and 20 percent in 2010.

Legalization was approved by Washington voters in November 2012. Legal sales began in July 2014.

The study also found that admissions to public treatment centers for cannabis abuse had fallen since legalization took effect, and that the cannabis industry had created more than six thousand full-time jobs.

 

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Research

Annual Colorado Government Report on Marijuana-related Health Concerns Highlights Several ‘Encouraging Trends’

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment highlighted several “encouraging trends” in its latest annual report on marijuana-related health concerns.

According to the report:

•    “For adults and adolescents, past-month marijuana use has not changed since legalization either in terms of the number of people using or the frequency of use among users.”

•    “Based on the most comprehensive data available, past-month marijuana use among Colorado adolescents is nearly identical to the national average.”

•    “Daily or near-daily marijuana use among adults is much lower than daily or near-daily alcohol or tobacco use. Among adolescents, past month marijuana use is lower than past month alcohol use.”

•    “Marijuana exposure calls to the poison center appear to be decreasing since 2015, including unintentional exposures in children ages 0-8 years.”

•    “The overall rate of emergency department visits with marijuana-related billing codes dropped 27 percent from 2014 to 2015 (2016 data is not available yet).”

•    The estimated percentage of women in Colorado who used marijuana during pregnancy is “not statistically different” from the national average.  

Once again, Colorado continues to demonstrate that regulating marijuana works.

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Research

Annual Study Shows Teen Marijuana Use Stable, Accessibility Decreasing

The results of an annual survey of U.S. middle and high school students released Tuesday invalidate claims that reforming marijuana laws and debating legalization will lead to increased marijuana use among teens.mtf-logo-high-res-300x194

According to the Monitoring the Future Survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

•    Among 8th-graders, the rate of past-year marijuana use dropped significantly from 11.8% in 2015 to 9.4% in 2016, its lowest level since 1993. Past-month marijuana use also dropped significantly, from 6.5% in 2015 to 5.4% in 2016, and daily use dropped from 1.1% in 2015 to 0.7% in 2016.

•    Among 10th- and 12th-graders, rates of past-year, past-month, and daily marijuana use remained relatively stable compared to last year.

•    Rates of use among 12th-graders appear to be higher in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without them, but previous studies have found that rates of use were already higher prior to the adoption of such laws.

•    Students’ perception of risk surrounding marijuana remained relatively stable from 2015 to 2016. The perception that marijuana is very easy or fairly easy to access declined slightly for 8th- and 10th-graders, and it increased slightly for 12th-graders.

Since 2012, eight states and the nation’s capital have adopted laws that make marijuana legal for adult use. Since 1996, 28 states have adopted laws that make marijuana legal for seriously ill patients whose doctors recommend it.

MPP's Mason Tvert sees this as more evidence that one of the more popular claims by prohibitionists is simply a scare tactic:

“Every time a state considers rolling back marijuana prohibition, opponents predict it will result in more teen use. Yet the data seems to tell a very different story. There has been a sea change in state marijuana laws over the past six years and teen usage rates have remained stable and even gone down in some cases.

“The best way to prevent teen marijuana use is education and regulation, not arresting responsible adult consumers and depriving sick people of medical marijuana. It is time to adopt marijuana policies that are based on evidence instead of fear.”

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Research

Study Shows No Increase in Colorado Teen Use After Legalization

Rates of marijuana use among Colorado teens have NOT increased since the state made marijuana legal for adults, according to results of a statewide survey released Monday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among Colorado teens also continue to be lower than the national average.HKCSB1

“The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization,” according to a CDPHE press release.

The biannual Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) found that 21.2% of high school students in Colorado reported using marijuana within the past 30 days in 2015, down slightly from 22% in 2011, the year before Amendment 64 was approved and enacted, and 24.8% in 2009, the year hundreds of medical marijuana stores began opening throughout the state. The HKCS also found that the rate of lifetime use among Colorado high school students dropped from 42.6% in 2009 to 38% in 2015. The decreases do not represent statistically significant changes, and the state agencies that support the survey have reported, “The trend for current and lifetime marijuana use has remained stable since 2005.”
Nationwide, 21.7% of high school students used marijuana in the past 30 days and 38.6% had used it during their life, according to results of the 2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) released earlier this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The executive summary for the 2015 HKCS notes, “Colorado does not significantly differ from the national average in lifetime or current marijuana use.”

The HKCS also found a slight drop in the percentage of Colorado high school students who reported using marijuana at school (from 6% in 2011 to 4.4% in 2015), and a very slight increase in the percentage of students who believe it is wrong for someone their age to use marijuana (from 60% in 2011 to 60.6% in 2015).

The HKCS is “the state’s only comprehensive survey on the health, well-being and resiliency of young people in Colorado,” according to the CDPHE.

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Research

Federal Survey Dispels Myth That Reforming Marijuana Laws, Debating Legalization Will Lead to More Teen Use

The results of an annual survey of U.S. middle and high school students released Wednesday invalidate claims that reforming marijuana laws and debating legalization will lead to increased marijuana use among teens.

According to the Monitoring the Future Survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

  • Rates of daily marijuana use by 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders, as well as monthly use by 12th-graders, did not change from 2014 to 2015 and have remained unchanged since 2010.
  • The rate of monthly marijuana use by 8th-graders did not change in the past year, but has dropped significantly since 2010.
  • The rate of monthly marijuana use by 10th-graders appears to have dropped significantly from 2014 (and 2010) to 2015.

The survey also found a decline in the number of teens who perceive ‘great risk’ in marijuana use, negating the theory that softening perceptions of harm will result in more teens using marijuana.

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Research

New Study Shows Teen Marijuana Use Not Linked to Later Physical or Mental Health Issues

A study just released by the American Psychological Association showsAPA logo_small no direct link between teen marijuana use, even chronic use, and health problems later in life. The study looked at more than 400 individuals as they matured and found no evidence that marijuana use caused or contributed to any mental or physical health issues over time, including cancer and psychosis.

The Daily Caller reports:

Chronic marijuana use as an adolescent has no link to mental or physical health problems later in life, according to a new study conducted over the past 20 years.

Published by the American Physiological Association, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Rutgers University divided participants into four groups from their teenage years onward.

One group almost never smoked marijuana, one used it mostly in their teenage years, another started using in adulthood and the final group of subjects started using marijuana early and continued into their adult years.

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The study found that “chronic marijuana users were not more likely than late increasing users, adolescence-limited users, or low/nonusers to experience several physical or mental health problems in their mid-30s.”

In fact, there were no significant differences between marijuana trajectory groups in terms of adult health outcomes, even when models were run without controlling for potential confounds. The researchers found no link between teen marijuana use and lifetime depression, anxiety, allergies, headaches or high blood pressure.

“Everyone wants to prevent teen marijuana use, but we don’t need to exaggerate its harms and arrest responsible adults in order to do it,” Mason Tvert, communications director at the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Hopefully, this study will lead to a reevaluation of the tactics that are being used to discourage teens from trying marijuana,” he added.

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Research

Guide to American Academy of Pediatrics Decriminalization Study

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatricsaap_logo-1 published an article called The Impact of Marijuana Policies on Youth: Clinical, Research, and Legal Update. While the report failed to recognize the benefits of regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol, it did  support decriminalizing marijuana because of the harms caused by arrests and their aftermath.

We put together this handy guide to highlight the most important points. Please share it with anyone who still thinks arresting and prosecuting marijuana consumers is good for young people.

The AAP also recently published a study suggesting that random drug testing and zero tolerance policies in schools can actually harm teens.

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Research

Study Shows Decline In Teen Marijuana Use

A national survey released Tuesday found teen marijuana usage rates decreased from 2013 to 2014 — a period marked by heightened national debate regarding marijuana policy and implementation of the nation’s first marijuana legalization laws.

According to the annual Monitoring the Future Survey,mtflogo sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), rates of annual, monthly, and daily marijuana use dropped among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. More details are available in the researchers’ press release.

Teens’ perception of ‘great risk’ in marijuana use also decreased among students in all three grades, contradicting the often-heard claim that public dialogue about the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition — including discussion of the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and other substances — will result in more teens using marijuana.

In August, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among the state’s high school students has dropped since marijuana became legal for adults. More information is available here.

There has been more public dialogue about marijuana over the past year than any 12-month period in history. States around the country are making marijuana legal for adults, establishing medical marijuana programs, and decriminalizing marijuana possession, and the sky is not falling. The debate is not resulting in more marijuana use among young people, but it is resulting in more sensible marijuana laws.

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Research

Marijuana Legalization Could Improve Drug Education

In a recent article in Alternet, Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum of the Drug Policy Alliance suggested that not only will making marijuana legal for adults likely not lead to increased teen use, but could improve the methods and resources we use to educate them about drugs.

Many worry that legalization might “send the wrong message,” leading to an escalation in teenage use.

[caption id="attachment_8379" align="alignright" width="190"]KAP_DPA_Marsha_Rosenbaum-035-Edit_240 Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum[/caption]

As a federally funded researcher, I regularly check survey data and am reassured by the annual Monitoring the Future survey of high school students’ drug use, which found recently that a majority of teens say that even if marijuana was legal, they would not try it. Preliminary data from the post-legalization 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey revealed that high school marijuana use in Colorado had actually decreased.

This has also been the case in states where medical marijuana is legal. Research published in prestigious journals such as the American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Adolescent Health generally show no association between medical marijuana laws and rates of teenage marijuana use. In California, where such laws have been in place for 18 years and are perhaps most lenient, marijuana use among teens is less prevalent now than before medical marijuana was legalized, according to the recent California Student Survey.

Even if legalization for adults does not affect teenage use, it does present an opportunity to re-think our approach to drug abuse prevention and education – both in school and at home.

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It’s time to get realistic – to devise innovative, pragmatic strategies for dealing with teens, marijuana, alcohol, and other drug use in this new era.

You can find out more about Rosenbaum's innovative approach to drug education here. 

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