Studies were presented at a pediatric conference in Baltimore on Sunday that could change the way many people perceive the effects of recreational marijuana legalization. Every two years, on even numbered years, a Washington State Health Youth Survey is conducted in order to get an overview of teenage life in Washington. According to the survey conducted in October 2014, 3.5 months after legalized weed became available throughout Washington state, teens reported that it wasn’t any easier or harder to get marijuana than it was in 2012 or 2010. There was no significant change whatsoever to teens and their accessibility to marijuana.
No Significant Risk of Teen Access
For many who are opposed to marijuana legalization, the risk towards teenagers is a major concern and one of the main arguments for keeping prohibition. This recent survey shows that there is no significant risk and teen concern should not be a factor for any state deciding on whether to legalize. The study was conducted in the early months of legalization and many anticipate results from the upcoming survey this October, although other states with legalized weed have had similar results with their youth surveys. There doesn’t seem to be any impact made at all on teen marijuana use, neither positive nor negative. Andrew Adesman, a pediatrician who spoke on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and was also one of the study’s authors, said, “It is both surprising and reassuring that teens didn’t perceive that marijuana was easier to access after it was legalized for recreational use by adults.”
Results Reinforced by Statistics
According to the Washington surveys, 66 percent of high school seniors reported that it was “sort of easy” to “very easy” to access marijuana in 2014 which mirrored survey results in 2012; the year recreational marijuana was legalized. The percentage of 10th graders rose slightly from 51 to 53 percent while in 8th graders the percentage dropped from 26 to 21 percent and in 6th graders the number stayed exactly the same at 7 percent. In fact, the percentage of teens who see marijuana as accessible has stayed exactly the same since 2008. There has been no increase or decrease in teen accessibility, although actual marijuana use dropped slightly between 2012 and 2014, proving that having access to weed doesn’t necessarily lead to a higher intake. In 2010, the number of teens who reported easy access to marijuana was 55 percent. In 2014, the number was 54 percent.
Legalized Weed vs. The Black Market
Another aspect of the survey still inspired some to want to crack down on teen marijuana use. Surveys showed that there was a slight increase in the percentage of teens who felt it was “hard” to get alcohol and cigarettes. Part of this is because marijuana is still being sold on the black market. High taxes and strong regulations have made it hard for businesses selling legalized weed to compete with prices on the black market. Of course, black market dealers aren’t carding their buyers and this is the likely reason that legalization doesn’t have an impact on teens. Lawmakers are still evaluating and reworking regulations in order to create the best working system that will phase out the black market.
For now, this is largely being taken as good news. States in the process of voting on whether to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults over 21 will be comforted to know that early studies support that legalized weed will not impact the youth’s access to marijuana.