States With Full Legalization See Teen Cannabis Use Drop 8%

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Research published just today affirms what we have been saying here at Ladybud for some time. Teenagers use cannabis less when the stigma surrounding cannabis from prohibition goes away and they see their parents and grandparents enjoying the plant. Not only does it play less into teenage rebellion when it’s legal, but it is also harder for teens to get their hands on it.

In a study just published today in a pediatric medical journal, researchers found that states with legalization measures in place had an average 8% reduction in teen cannabis use. This reduction seemed to only apply to states with full legalization, not just medical cannabis programs.

The researchers looked at data collected from 1993 to 2017 for well over a million high school students in self-reported surveys. The results of this study contradict state-level research from places like Colorado, where so far statistics have indicated that teen use rates have remained about the same. However, this more intensive and national analysis of data could give some insight into a larger overall trend.

There are many reasons for this potential decrease in teen cannabis use. Part of the successful reduction in teens smoking most like stems from the more carefully regulated cannabis markets. When most people can just walk into a shop and purchase cannabis, there is a little mark-up potential for resellers and middlemen, as well as for people selling their own cannabis illegally.

While some individuals may still take the risk involved in growing or buying cannabis and then selling it to underage users, most people will find that the potential profit it doesn’t outweigh the risk anymore. In states with full prohibition, individuals risk incarceration with every transaction, regardless of the age of the customers involved. They have no incentive to keep cannabis out of the hands of teens. In fact, they may see selling to teens as a way to build a lifetime client base.

Legalization reduces the profit margin and makes selling to teens unnecessarily risky. People working in or operating retail shops risk the loss of their licensing and massive fines if they get caught selling to teens.

Of course, reduced stigma may also make cannabis seem less rebellious or cool to today’s youth. And it’s also possible that the reduction is not really correlated to legalization or something else, as this analysis only looked at trends, not cause. However, an 8% reduction in teen use is certainly something for the pearl-clutchers to consider.

For previous Ladybud articles about teen cannabis use, click here.

Photo Credit: Diane Deaton Street via Flickr under (CC BY-ND 2.0)