A common refrain among Republican politicians against marijuana legalization is uncertainty around how normalizing cannabis use could affect teenage consumption. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) made that argument earlier this week on Joe Rogan’s podcast. According to new data The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), marijuana legalization is driving more people toward cannabis. The catch—legalization increases adult usage, but decreases it among youth.
For several decades, the highest marijuana consumers was split generationally. Those ages 18-25 were the heaviest users, followed by teenagers ages 12-17. In dead last were adults, ages 26-plus. But around 2016 that clientele base flipped—adults now account for more marijuana use in the past month than teenagers.
To put that into perspective, consider this. In 2002, teenagers used marijuana at more than double the rate as their adult counterparts (8.2% vs. 4%, respectively). NSDUH demonstrates adult consumption doubling to about 8% in recent years while youth usage dropped by a quarter in the same time. NSDUH data, by the way, is compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a federal organization.
“The percentage of adolescents in 2018 who used marijuana in the past year was lower than the percentages in 2002 to 2004 and in 2009 to 2013, but it was similar to the percentages in 2005 to 2008 and in 2014 to 2017,” SAMHSA said.
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The data also shows how attitudes around marijuana has changed in the country. As The Shepherd Express reports, SAMHSA also polled subjects in their survey their perceptions on what risk smoking marijuana once a month carried. In 2002, they reported 39.3% believed smoking once a month carried a “great risk.” By 2017, that figure has dropped to 26.91%.
This data corroborates what others have previously reported—marijuana legalization does not significantly encourage youths using cannabis. A study published by JAMA Pediatrics earlier this year demonstrated that both medical and recreational legalization did draw teenagers into smoking weed.
“Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth,” researchers concluded. “Moreover, the estimates…showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes.”