Youth Marijuana Use Down Despite Greater Legalization

By Steve Birr

Marijuana use among America’s youth is experiencing a decline and young teens say the drug is growing increasingly difficult to find.

Marijuana accessibility is at a record low for 8th and 10th graders and has stayed roughly stagnant among students in 12th grade. Just 34.6 percent of 8th graders said they could easily access marijuana in 2016, down 2.4 percent from last year. Marijuana use also fell slightly among 8th and 10th graders, while remaining the same for high school seniors. The statistics are promising to health officials, but there is no consensus on what is driving the decline, reports U.S. News and World Report.

The annual Monitoring the Future survey of U.S. teens also showed declines in alcohol use among teens.

“I don’t have an explanation. This is somewhat surprising,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told U.S. New and World Report. “We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [accessibility and use] would go up. But it hasn’t gone up.”

Many health experts tied to the study believe the drop could be attributed to the overall decline in the youth smoking rate. Only 1.8 percent of high school seniors said they smoked half a pack or more a day in 2016, down from 11 percent in 1991, reports USA Today.

Members of the marijuana industry are also arguing that state legalization laws are helping make the product more difficult to obtain.

“We’ve always argued that taking marijuana out of the unregulated criminal market and putting sales into the hands of responsible retailers would actually make it harder for young people to get,” Tom Angell, chairman of advocacy group Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Under legalization, businesses have every incentive to follow the rules and make sure their customers are of legal age lest they lose their lucrative licenses.”

Marijuana activists won major ballot victories on Election Day in states across the country. Medical marijuana legalization passed in Florida with 71 percent support and also secured passage in Arkansas and North Dakota. Voters in California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine all approved measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

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