Federal Government Survey Dispels Myth That Rolling Back Marijuana Prohibition Laws Will Lead to an Increase in Teen Marijuana Use

Federal Government Survey Dispels Myth That Rolling Back Marijuana Prohibition Laws Will Lead to an Increase in Teen Marijuana Use

Continued decline in teens’ use of alcohol and cigarettes suggests regulating marijuana could be more effective at preventing teen use than current prohibition policies

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A biennial federal government survey released Thursday dispels the myth that rolling back marijuana prohibition laws will lead to an increase in teen marijuana use.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found the rate of current marijuana use among U.S. high school students remained flat from 2011 to 2013.

During that period of time, voters in Colorado and Washington adopted and implemented laws making marijuana legal for adults; state legislatures in Rhode Island and Vermont approved and implemented laws decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana; and national polls showed significant increases in public support for ending marijuana prohibition.

“This debunks the theory that openly discussing the benefits of legalizing marijuana for adults will result in more teen use,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The public dialogue surrounding marijuana is more balanced and honest than ever before. We should be encouraging teens to take part in it, not shielding them from it.”

The YRBS results also suggest regulating marijuana could be more effective at preventing teen marijuana use than current prohibition policies. It found the usage rates of alcohol and cigarettes — products that are legal for adults and regulated — declined significantly among high school students. Rates of alcohol and cigarette use have consistently declined over the past several years, whereas the rate of marijuana use has remained relatively consistent.

“Rates of teen alcohol and cigarette use have dropped, and we didn’t have to arrest any adults for using them,” Tvert said. “We could see the same results by regulating marijuana. Regulation works.”

The YRBS results regarding current high school marijuana use are available at http://1.usa.gov/1oTHZjE

The YRBS results regarding current high school alcohol use are available at http://1.usa.gov/1irICLE

The YRBS results regarding current high school cigarette use are available at http://1.usa.gov/1nze52L

  • Mike

    The idea that legalization will result in higher teen use is based on the logical fallacy that current prohibitionist laws are working. They don’t. They don’t keep teenagers or anyone else who wants it from getting cannabis. Period.

    Simply carding buyers under a regulated market of legal weed will be far more effective at preventing teen use than the combined forces of the DEA and every other narc organization in the country.

  • Christine

    It’s not surprising to me that Mason Tvert would broadcast that this study says something about legalization in Colorado and Washington, but clearly he hasn’t read the relevant sections of the report or doesn’t care to check the details. Colorado and Washington were not included in this most recent CDC survey. Washington has never been part of the study, but Colorado has participated in the last two (2009, 2011). Why not this year? Seems rather suspicious to me. What is going on with Colorado youth would be the most relevant measure of how youth in a state respond to legalization in that state, and the CDC should have ensured that the data were collected.

    • Mike

      So are you presuming today’s youth are so out of touch that teens in the other 48 states don’t know about legalization in Colorado nor would they be influenced by it? In any case, if they do — and I think they do — it’s set off no stampede of underage buyers to there AFAIK and it doesn’t seem to have been a factor in increased use elsewhere. That’s all Mr. Tvert was saying

      The question with regard to WA is a bit specious. The first legal rec reefer shop hasn’t opened there yet.

      Of course, your comments seem to imply there is something sinister lurking. What we can be sure of is that nearly everyone of those who bought legal marijuana in CO were legally of age to do so. Given there’s likely a considerable black market still hanging on right now, I doubt such a metric would prove enlightening to the degree you think it would. I also suspect that could be the reason the CDC decided to exclude it this time around. I presume their surveys were based on the premise that cannabis is illegal. That’s no longer the case.

      The model your comments suggest you support seems to be remarkably less efficacious, to say the least. All it does it make it easy for kids to get weed. Why not make that hard and see what happens? Or are you afraid of a solution that seems to be working because you prefer the one that demonstrates decades of failure?

      • Christine

        I do think that teens elsewhere will be influenced by what happens in Colorado and Washington, but they will be influenced first in those two states, which is why it’s important to have that data now. As for it being harder for teens to get marijuana in these two legalized and “regulated” states, I’m sure nothing could be farther from the truth.

        • Mike

          I still think you’re expecting too much from the data. What’s a data point at six months anyway? A snapshot.

          With a new legal market, a large medical market, and a black market still hanging on, I’ll bet it’s not harder yet. Give it time. ASs the illegal market chases profits elsewhere — believe me, they can’t compete on quality, so they’re unlikely to have much presence in the long term.

          Sure, there’s always raiding mom and dad’s stash, err, I mean liquor cabinet. In the long run, we’re much better having kids receive a model of good behavior with cannabis from them, just as it’s important for parents to drink responsibly.

          Law enforcement has no business in this area of peoples lives, so long as they sort it out in reasonable fashion and don’t cause problems for themselves and others.

          Frankly, I think the medical community in certain areas is hyping a message of crazed teen ax murderers a la Anslinger over this. If you’re honestly worried about such things, it’ll be far better off having it out in the open than the way things are now. It’s just as ridiculous to think this provides signficant new access. Eventually, it will cut down on the anything goes market that’s out there now. Or would you prefer more of that? It’s a result of exactly the same policies you fear are threatened here.

          • Hank Pym

            Agreed. As a teenager (in the late 90’s/early 00’s) it was always harder for us to get alcohol than weed. BC getting alcohol meant not only actually knowing/finding someone old enough, but who was also willing to take the chance for us. Our dealer never asked for valid ID

          • Buzzby19491

            40 years of government-sponsored surveys support your position.

    • Buzzby19491

      Since the 1960s, it has always been easier for teenagers to obtain marijuana than it is for their parents. The average high school student can have a bag of weed in-hand in half an hour or less. Any teen who wants to have marijuana already has it. Legalization couldn’t make much difference in that situation. The marijuana is there and the threat of getting caught doesn’t mean much until it happens to you.

  • Sondra Rene Eisenman

    Lieing to kids is just wrong anyway, people should be up front and honest about any drug use that includes their ADHD medications and such… but that is a whole other can of worms. as a person that struggled with addiction, I am very careful and open with my doctors about what I take for anything, from a cold to pain to depression, I get ALL facts and research to weigh the benefits vs the risk. and I have kids and I lock all my drugs up high in a cabinet- all of them including vitamins and herbal supplements. I even lock up the wine/liquor. It is fairly simple.

  • Aaron Mason

    It’s time to end the failed experiment of prohibition. It failed miserably with alcohol and it failed miserably with marijuana. Everyone knows the only thing dangerous about marijuana is prohibition and the problems, crime, corruption, cartels, and dirty cops that come with prohibition. Quit wasting our tax dollars and police time trying to stop people from possessing a plant, it’s stupid.

  • Edo Edo

    Agreed. “Just say no” turned into “Why say no?” pretty darn fast…

  • Buzzby19491

    If we want to discourage teen use of marijuana, it is imperative that parents behave as obnoxiously as possible when they get high. I don’t drink because my father was a real embarrassment when he was drinking, something I’d never want to emulate. I know it’s hard to be a total a-hole when you’re high, but you should do it for your kids.