When the legalization of marijuana was first being talked about, both recreational and medical, some of the strongest critics believed it would lead to increased usage by teenagers since it would be readily available to the masses to some extent.
However, according to a new report published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, an international journal focusing on scholarly research and commentary related to drugs and alcohol, marijuana usage in teens has dramatically dropped compared to how it was 15 years ago.
Looking at the data collected from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent of teens admitted to using marijuana in 2013, down from the 47 percent in 1999. Despite its overall usage being down, marijuana is still used more by teenagers than all other illegal drugs. Only 3 percent say they’ve tried amphetamines, it was at 9 percent in 1999.
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, thanks to Proposition 215. Alaska, Oregon and Washington followed suit in 1998, Delaware joined in 1999. So, at the time of the initial study, five states had already legalized medical marijuana use.
By the time the latest study in 2013 was conducted, 21 states (including the District of Columbia) passed bills legalizing medical marijuana use and two states – Washington and Colorado – legalized it recreationally.
Renee M. Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins University, was part of the study which included teenagers usage of all substances.
“We found that use of other drugs – including alcohol, cigarettes, hallucinogens, ecstasy, meth, cocaine – also decreased,” Johnson said in an interview with Forbes.
Cigarette and alcohol use dramatically dropped from 70 and 81 percent respectively in 1999, to 41.1 percent and 66 percent in 2013. Marijuana usage wasn’t found to be gender-specific either with 42 percent of boys and 39 percent of girls admitting to having tried it in the recent study.
“We haven’t seen increases following medical marijuana or decriminalization laws,” Johnson said. “Therefore, there may be factors other than policy that impact youth use of marijuana.”
“But, we need to continue to monitor use,” she added.
While we don’t know what the factors coming in play are, it is an interesting study to step back and look at. One thing to consider, though, is the population of the United States has increased from 279 million people in 1999 to 316.5 million people in 2013. The increase of population may speak to some extent when it comes to deciphering the data, but there are surely a bevy of other factors that play a more important role in the decreased usage of marijuana.