Kids Use Less Marijuana in States That Have Legalized

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According to a new federally-funded survey, the use of cannabis by those under 18 dropped by a significant amount in 2021. The report, released by Monitoring the Future, found a drop for students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades.

The findings debunk a myth that legal weed would lead to more teens getting high. Researchers measured drug use among the nation’s teens and discovered that cannabis use dropped to levels not seen since the early 1990s. The University of Michigan conducted the survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

RELATED: Will Cannabis Exposure In Young People Cause Adult Psychosis Later?

The biggest drop in teen cannabis use since 1975

In all areas, including cannabis use, the survey found the most significant drop in teen use since 1975. In a press release issued along with the study, NIDA Director Nora Volkow credited some of the drop to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have never seen such dramatic decreases in drug use among teens in just a one-year period,” Volkow said. “These data are unprecedented and highlight one unexpected potential consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused seismic shifts in the day-to-day lives of adolescents.”

The survey found the following percentage drops in cannabis use by teens by grade.

  • 7.1 percent of 8th graders reported marijuana use in the past year, compared to 11.4 percent in 2020
  • 17.3 percent of 10th graders reported using marijuana in the past year, compared to 28 percent in 2020
  • 30.5 percent of 12th graders reported using marijuana in the past year, compared to 35.2 percent in 2020

RELATED: Cannabis Legalization Reduces Suicide Rates Among Middle-Aged Males

What happens when the pandemic is under control?

Volkow said the key in 2022, a year in which experts hope the coronavirus becomes endemic rather than a pandemic, officials will need to gather information on the details of what caused the drop in 2021.

“Moving forward, it will be crucial to identify the pivotal elements of this past year that contributed to decreased drug use – whether related to drug availability, family involvement, differences in peer pressure, or other factors – and harness them to inform future prevention efforts,” Volkow said.

Each year, the university conducts the survey with students who self-report their substance use over varying periods, including the past month, year, and over their lifetime. The 2021 report included surveys from 32,260 students enrolled in 319 U.S. public and private schools.

The results of the survey mirror those from studies in Colorado and Washington conducted last year. Those found that weed use by teens did not increase, and in some cases, dropped after the state legalized recreational cannabis. The studies also found no increase in auto accidents involving teens using cannabis after legalization.

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