U.S. study shows teen cannabis use is growing post-legalization, White House anti-cannabis official disagrees


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

More teens are using cannabis post-legalization, according to a new longitudinal study straight out of the United States. The investigation, which was conducted by the University of Washington and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, monitored usage of the plant among over 230 teens and young adults.

Based on the results of the study, teens are more inclined to try the green plant if they reside in a state that has enacted legalization. Researchers also focused on what teens thought about the drug causing potential harm to users in Washington, which was the first U.S. state to legalize recreational cannabis back in December 2012.

Teens aged 15 and above were more likely to use cannabis after legalization

An interesting finding from this study on teen cannabis use post-legalization discovered that consumption among 15-year-olds born before the year 2000 rested at just 11 percent. On the other hand, just five percent of youths born after 2000 claimed that they used cannabis when they were 15 years old.

Although teen cannabis consumption was not as high as expected among those two age groups, it should be noted that youths who turned 15 years old after legalization were much more likely to use the plant within the last year. This is likely due to the fact that access to the plant improved once retail stores opened their doors.

“When we think about [cannabis] legalization, a worry is that underage use may go up. Early use and heavy use during adolescence can have a lot of negative health consequences, then and later in life, so we don’t want teen use to be going up,” said the study’s lead author, Jennifer Bailey.

Legalization could be working against “hard-won, population-level decreases” in cannabis consumption, said Bailey’s team of study authors, who have recommended that soon-to-be legal jurisdictions use educational methods. Why? Because teens’ perception of the potential dangers caused by consumption didn’t seem to alter post-legalization. Lack of awareness means that resources should be dedicated to evidence-based prevention programming regarding underage cannabis use, the team added.

White House Official claims teen cannabis use post-legalization is down

The deputy coordinator for the National Marijuana Initiative, Dale Quigley, recently discussed the topic of adult-use cannabis with a team of North Dakota lawmakers. Quigley, whose initiative is a part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, aired his opinions virtually to lawmakers who were responsible for launching a study on adult-use cannabis 10 months ago.

“For some reason, the use rate among this age bracket is going down,” said Quigley as he drew attention to the fact that policymakers are still unsure as to why this is happening. During the discussion, he focused on declining cannabis use in Colorado one of the first places to legalize weed in the U.S. and other U.S. states with sweeping recreational laws.

“In looking at the state of Colorado for 12-to-17 year old current use, we had a spike in ’14, but overall the use rates in Colorado have been declining, and that matches what we’re seeing in other states and also the trend we’re seeing nationally,” added Quigley, whose team utilized data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Organization (SAMHSA) to carry out their research on teen cannabis use post-legalization.