A national survey carried out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows no evidence of marijuana legalization leading to an increase in cannabis use among youth. According to the recently published findings of the biennial survey, the rate of teen cannabis use decreased significantly as the states continue to legalize marijuana.
The CDC 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) revealed that in 2015 only 21.7% of the U.S. high school students reported using cannabis during the past month. This rate is lower compared to the 2013 rate of 23.4% and the 26.2% rate in 1997 when California became the first state with legal medical cannabis. Within the period between 1996 and 2015, four American states and D.C. legalized recreational cannabis for adults; 23 more states made medical marijuana legal.
The results of the CDC survey once again demonstrated that the increase in cannabis use among youth is only a misconception promoted by marijuana opponents. In practice, the abolition of cannabis prohibition policies and adoption of marijuana laws by U.S. states have resulted in a gradual decline in cannabis consumption by high school youth.
According to the survey, teenage marijuana use generally decreased across the country. This trend appears to be to both for states that only legalized medical cannabis and states that made recreational cannabis legal too. In Alaska, the rate of marijuana use among high school students decreased from 19.7% in 2013 to 19.0% in 2015, after recreational marijuana was legalized in the Last Frontier State in 2014. Colorado did not participate in the survey in 2013, and Washington and Oregon never participated in this survey at all, but other surveys seem to indicate that the same trend holds there as well.
This November, citizens of Massachusetts, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Maine will have a chance to legalize either medical or recreational weed on the upcoming ballot in November. Florida, along with Missouri and Arkansas, is also expected to vote on similar initiatives.
The CDC researchers are sure that the results of this survey will help alleviate voters' concerns that legal marijuana would become more available to teenagers.
The YRBS results clearly show regulating cannabis in a way similar to alcohol and cigarettes can be more effective than prohibiting it altogether. The CDC's findings reveal that the use of cigarettes and alcohol among teenagers have steadily decreased over the past two decades from 51.6% for alcohol use and 34.8% for cigarette use in 1995 to 32.8% and 10.8% in 2015, respectively.