Despite fears that the legalization of marijuana might encourage use among adolescents, the rate of teenage marijuana use has dropped to its lowest point since 1994. Among youth between the ages of 12 and 17, marijuana usage has been on a downward trend since at least 2002, even though recreational marijuana shops opened in 2014.
Currently, 6.5 percent of individuals in this age range use marijuana on a monthly basis, based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The same survey from 2014 reported that 7.1 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 used marijuana on a monthly basis compared to 8.2 percent in 2002. Teenage marijuana use is declining regardless of whether it is legally available to some members of the public.
Cannabis Use and Acceptance Growing Among Adults
In contrast, the same survey found that marijuana use among adults aged 18 to 34 is at its highest rate since 1985. Nearly 21 percent of Americans between 18 and 25 use marijuana at least once a month, while monthly usage is reported to be 14.5 percent among adults aged 26 to 34.
These numbers have been rising for several decades; the last national survey saw an increase from 17.3 percent to 19.1 percent among 18 to 25-year-olds between 2002-2013, so current rates seem to be a continuation of an existing trend.
Alcohol use decreased alongside an increase in marijuana use by adults 18 or older according to the 2017 survey, suggesting that people are replacing liquor consumption with marijuana use.
According to a study covered earlier this year by saludmóvil™, individuals who used medical marijuana to treat their symptoms of pain (whether chronic, regularly occurring, or acute) reported a 42 percent drop in alcohol consumption.
A recent Quinnipiac poll found that a majority of adults in America — 61 percent — believe that lawmakers should legalize marijuana in the United States, while a resounding 94 percent support allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if prescribed by a doctor.
Crafting Effective Public Policy
There is concern among experts that marijuana use affects the development of the brain during adolescence, a concern shared by some groups who oppose the legalization of marijuana. While the findings of this year’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health cannot address the issue of marijuana’s safety in young individuals, it certainly finds that its legalization has not influenced use among teenagers.
Policymakers will have to find another way to discourage early use of marijuana without perpetuating a policy that fails to acknowledge its potentially life-saving use among the rest of the public.
A study published earlier this month called upon public policy makers to implement cannabis-based addiction intervention strategies to address the fatal opioid crisis in North America, drawing upon an overwhelming body of evidence that demonstrates how cannabis can save lives.
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