Legalization of Marijuana Has Lowered Cannabis Use by Teens in USA

They often say that the best deterrent to something is to take the forbidden fruit element out of it and to legalize it.

It seems that this is certainly the case for cannabis as the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows a decrease in cannabis use by teens in the USA. At the same time the report shows a 35% increase among adults over the last 15 years.

The report, under guidance of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), shows that in 2018, almost 50% of the participants aged 18 and above admitted using marijuana. The most popular states where adults use cannabis are unsurprisingly legal states and highest consumption was found in States with legal recreational marijuana: Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Among adults, the statistically largest group of user are young adults, aged 18 to 25 of whom 34.8% admitted to consuming marijuana in the last year. While no growth was registered compared to 2017, the numbers for this age category are significant higher than in the period from 2002 to 2016. 13.3% of adults aged above 26 also admitted using cannabis in the past year. Combined the report estimates that both age groups represent around 40 million citizens, resp. 11.8 million young adults and 28.5 million adults.

Past Year Marijuana Use among People Aged 12 or Older: 2002-2018 graph
Past Year Marijuana Use among People Aged 12 or Older: 2002-2018

While the increase in adult consumption may not be so surprising, the effect of legal marijuana seems to have had an impact on cannabis consumption by teens. While in recent years there has been minor fluctuation in the number of toking teens, the numbers reported in 20017, and the years before, are significantly lower than in the earlier years the data was tracked. In 2018 1 teen in 8 (12.5%) reported having consumed cannabis in the previous year, while in 2002 the number was almost 1 in 6 (15.8%).

The report also highlighted marijuana use disorder, which it categorizes as “when someone experiences significant impairment caused by the recurrent use of marijuana, including health problems, persistent or increasing use, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home“. Here at BeSmoke HQ we surely appreciated their use of the Oxford comma before or.

Marijuana Use Disorder in the Past Year among People Aged 12 or Older: Percentages, 2002-2018 Graph
Marijuana Use Disorder in the Past Year among People Aged 12 or Older: Percentages, 2002-2018

The survey reported an estimated 4.4 million cannabis users, aged 12 or older, who had a cannabis use disorder. While the total number, representing around 1.6% of the population, was largely flat over the surveyed 17 years, a significant decline was again noticeable for the 12-17 age group. Among teens cannabis misuse disorder more than halved in the reported period.

Anyone interested in data, and drugs use statistics, should check out the full report as it contains a wealth of data, also on other drugs including alcohol and cocaine, and even misuse of prescription drugs.

Photo Credit: leadpic by the Searching Eyes on on DeviantArt.


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