The moral majority have always assumed and asserted that marijuana legalization will lead to an increase in use among children and teens. Regardless of whether that legalization is recreational or medical, the idea is that as weed becomes more widely accepted and available the more an adolescent is going to want to experiment with it.
They thought legalization would increase use among adolescents…but they were wrong.
A 12 year study that included over 215,000 adolescents and spanned all 50 states has given cannabis consumers good news. Honestly, the more research done on cannabis the more good news we get. This particular study, conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis and published in 2016, discovered something very different than the expected. Cannabis problems have been declining in states that have legalized – and beyond.
Participants (who ranged in ages 12 -17 years old) were questioned on how often they used cannabis during the years-long study. The data researchers collected was then thoroughly examined to determine whether or not marijuana legalization (medical or otherwise) was having a positive, a negative or a neutral effect on today’s youth.
Researchers did, in fact, see a trend in that 12 year period of time. Between the years of 2002 and 2013, the number of adolescents who reported steady use or abuse of marijuana declined a whopping 24 percent. There was also a noticeable decline (10 percent) in the number of adolescents that reported using the drug at all in the past year over the 2002-2013 time frame.
With a decline in perceived “problems” associated with marijuana in 12-17-year-olds came a decline in problematic behavioral issues as well. As the number of cases of adolescents selling drugs, fighting or stealing declined, so did the chances those adolescents would have negative issues regarding cannabis. Washington University’s The Source quotes one author of the study, Richard A Grucza, Ph.D. and associate professor of psychiatry, saying,
“We were surprised to see substantial declines in marijuana use and abuse…We don’t know how legalization is affecting young marijuana users, but it could be that many kids with behavioral problems are more likely to get treatment earlier in childhood, making them less likely to turn to pot during adolescence. But whatever is happening with these behavioral issues, it seems to be outweighing any effects of marijuana decriminalization.”
Wait a second. So… even the researchers involved in the study are hesitant to say it? That cannabis legalization isn’t going to turn all kids into potheads? Even with the evidence they acquired that supports just that? Do scientists need to have a theory be proven a fact 100 times before accepting it. Or is it really still that difficult for professionals to admit that cannabis is a viable medicine and won’t wreck everyone under the age of 18.
Either way, the numbers don’t lie – percentages of use and abuse have dropped. Maybe the less taboo something is, the less drawn to experiment with it kids are. How do you think marijuana legalization will affect the use of marijuana among adolescents? Let us know what you think in the comments below.