By Paul Armentano
“What about the children?”
This was arguably the most frequently posed question by critics in the years prior to state-level marijuana legalization. Many legalization opponents presumed that legalizing cannabis for adults would undoubtedly lead to an increase in marijuana access and use among teens.
But 10 years following the first states’ decisions to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis sales, data conclusively shows that these fears were unfounded.
For example, data provided this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the percentage of high schoolers who report having used cannabis over the past 30 days actually fell from 23% in 2011 to 16% in 2021.
Likewise, the percentage of teens who acknowledge having ever tried cannabis has similarly declined. These downward trends coincide with the period when over 20 U.S. states legalized cannabis use by adults.
States that have legalized the adult-use cannabis market have experienced similar declines in underage use. According to the findings of a 2020 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the adoption of state-level legalization laws “predicted a small significant decline in the level of marijuana use among (youth) users.”
Another study published in JAMA Pediatrics similarly concluded: “Marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes,” since “it is more difficult for teenagers…
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