Opponents of marijuana legalization have long warned that ending prohibition will cause rates of use among teenagers to skyrocket due to increased availability and less concern about the potential harms associated with getting baked on a regular basis.
But yet again, new evidence shows the concern is unfounded.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report Tuesday that found that in 2015, the most recent year with complete data, 21.7 percent of students in grades 9-12 reported using weed at least once over the past month. That figure is “not measurably different” from 2013, when the first recreational marijuana laws took effect in Washington and Colorado, according to the report.
The bureau’s annual report “presents the most recent data available on school crime and student safety” and draws data from “from a variety of data sources, including national surveys of students, teachers, principals, and postsecondary institutions.” It mostly focuses on bullying and violence, but activist and journalist Tom Angell spotted the pot stat and noted that teen marijuana use appears, in fact, to have declined slightly since 2013, when 23.4 percent of high schoolers nationwide reported getting high at least once in the past 30 days.
The findings add to a growing mountain of evidence that suggests legalization doesn’t cause more kids to smoke weed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse released a comprehensive study in December that found that rates of marijuana use have remained steady among teens despite changing laws and attitudes in recent years. Seven states plus Washington, D.C., now allow recreational use by adults, and 30 states have some type of medical marijuana law on the books.
State-level studies have produced similar results. A 2016 survey of more than 230,000 teenage students from Washington found that rates of past-month marijuana use have remained steady despite the state’s booming recreational pot market. A 2015 Colorado study concluded that “youth marijuana use remains relatively unchanged” in the state, and recent federal data shows pot use among Colorado teens may have declined significantly.
Legalization advocates like to claim that regulation makes it more difficult for minors to score. (Unlike black market dealers, dispensaries are required to check IDs.) But it’s also possible that weed is just less cool for kids these days now that their parents are smoking it.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics report includes some other interesting data about state-by-state marijuana use among teens, as well as information about use by race and sexual orientation. Check out the whole report below.