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Study: Marijuana Legalization is Not Increasing Youth Use Rate

Youth Marijuana Use

A major platform of opponents’ fight against marijuana reform has been the idea that the youth marijuana use rate will increase. The theory goes: If youths believe marijuana is less harmful than originally thought, they’re more likely to use it. For decades data appeared to support that theory, but not anymore.

An intriguing slideshow from Kevin Sabet, a leading legalization opponent, reveals data from Monitoring the Future survey results between 1975 to 2009. The survey found that past-year marijuana use dropped from about 50 percent in the late 1970s, and beginning the year Bill Clinton was elected the pattern reversed itself.

Last year, however, the Monitoring the Future results revealed that marijuana use rates were stable or slightly down among middle and high school students as marijuana’s risk perception also declined, reported U.S. News.

“That’s what’s been surprising to me and other researchers: We’ve now had five years of consistent declines in perceived harmfulness and the use rates have been reasonably steady – or dropping slightly this year,” said Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institution on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “This is a bit of a puzzle and speaks to a different relationship of these phenomena than we’ve seen in the past.”

“This new data solidifies early indications that the scare tactics peddled by prohibitionists are false,” says Betty Aldworth, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a pro-legalization group. “Criminalization isn’t the way to encourage young people to make healthy choices; regulating a legal market and honest, reality-based education is.”