When it comes to marijuana legalization, one of the biggest arguments to come out of opponents is the concern for children. Marijuana prohibitionists are always bringing the threat of youth intoxication up as a primary reason not to legalize the plant. In Colorado and Washington where marijuana was legalized in 2012 and pot shops opened in 2014, state officials have been able to monitor the youth to indeed see whether or not legalization has created a negative impact. As it turns out, based on data collected from both states, teen use has remained completely unaffected by the change in state laws.
The Washington State Healthy Youth Survey
A new state run survey questioned 37,000 middle and high school students. The Washington State Healthy Youth Survey collected information from students on their monthly habits and activities including violence, safety, exercise, diet, alcohol and drugs. Students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 were surveyed. The surveys have occurred every 2 years since 2002 so that greater patterns of behavior can be tracked. Members of the community, including county prevention coordinators, community mobilization coalitions and community public health and safety networks use the information to create policies and programs that will benefit the youth.
No Increase in Teen Marijuana Use
According to the survey, teen use has not changed in any way since marijuana was legalized in Washington. No measurable effect could be found in how marijuana legalization has affected teens. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also put together a Monitoring the Future survey which had exactly the same results found by Washington officials. There was no change in teen behavior since marijuana was legalized. In fact, all Colorado based surveys found the same thing to be true. Both Washington and Colorado were able to be a kind of testing ground for how marijuana legalization would play out with one of those aspects being how youth would be affected. It is clear that legalization had no impact and states such as California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine, who all legalized marijuana last November, should be able to rest easy in moving forward to create the ideal space.
“I don’t have an explanation. This is somewhat surprising,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIDA, about the results of the survey when she spoke with U.S. News and World Report. “We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that (accessibility and use) would go up. But it hasn’t gone up.”
The Potential of Phone Use as Substitute for Drug Use
A recent report in the New York Times proposed that smart phones and new technology in general may be responsible for the decline in drug use by teenagers around the country. The report suggests that phone use could be a substitute for getting high. The report is so convincing that federal health officials plan to explore the idea in further detail.
The results are positive in general and should also allow opponents to rest easy, knowing that legalization is not the damaging disaster previously imagined. Years into legalization in Washington and Colorado and no damaging consequences have shown themselves as of yet. In fact, policy and order just keeps increasing in the states. The latest surveys confirm that the states seem to be on track.