Fact: Legalising weed means fewer teens using it

Following legalization, the rate of adolescent marijuana use in Colorado has fallen to its lowest level in nearly a decade, according to new federal survey data.

State-level numbers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that a little more than 9 percent of Colorado teens age 12 to 17 used marijuana monthly in 2015 and 2016, a statistically significant drop from the prior period. That’s the lowest rate of monthly marijuana use in the state since 2007 and 2008.

Wait. Wasn’t teen use meant to skyrocket after cannabis was legalised?

And it’s not just marijuana: Rates of teen alcohol, tobacco and heroin use are down sharply in the state, as well.

Of course, this doesn’t prove that legalisation caused the drop in teen use. If only there was a link that could be drawn between legalisation and …

[…] ?Teen use appears to be dropping now that state and local authorities are overseeing the production and sale of marijuana,? said Brian Vicente of Vicente Sederberg LLC, one of the drafters of Colorado’s marijuana ballot measure, in a statement. ?There are serious penalties for selling to minors, and regulated cannabis businesses are being vigilant in checking IDs.?

In other words, if you sell to minors expect to be caught and expect jail time. Which means fewer dealers selling to people underage.

And not only is teen use down but first-time use of cannabis by teens is also down.

[…] The new federal data shows that adolescent marijuana use fell nationwide in 2016. In no states did the share of teens using pot increase by a significant amount, and in a number, including California, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey and Texas, rates of teen marijuana use fell considerably.

Use is up, however, among young adults age 18 to 25 and adults age 26 and up. Alcohol use, meanwhile, is falling across the board, according to the federal survey data.

In Colorado, the rate of use amongst 18-to-25 years old in 2013 to 2015 was 31.24% and in 2015 to 2016 it was up 0.96% to 32.20%. So yeah, 0.96% up over three years.

In Colorado, for instance, the number of 18-to-25-year-olds using alcohol on a monthly basis fell by four percentage points between 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. That’s the group with the highest propensity to use marijuana, suggesting that a number of young adults are opting to smoke weed instead of get drunk now that the option is available to them.

Yep, yet another bonus to legalisation. Fewer cops having to deal with belligerent drunks.

If that’s the case, it could be a big public-health win, considering what public-health experts know about the harmfulness of marijuana vis-?-vis booze.

What this means for us in NZ is that when we legalise cannabis, before legalising, heavy penalties need to be put in place for those that sell to people underage. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, there is currently no difference between selling to an adult and selling to a minor. In my opinion, there should be. If it was up to me I’d make the maximum sentence for selling cannabis to a minor 14 years in prison.

We know that cannabis can cause significant damage to developing brains. With the right regulations in place not only will legalising not cause teen use to skyrocket, it will mean fewer teens using.

-Washington Post