Are More Young People Smoking Marijuana Since It’s Been Decriminalized in Certain States?

While the battle of legalities rages on throughout America, there seems to be a surprising trend emerging with the younger generation, and it wasn’t what we expected!

For as long as cannabis has been around, there have been constant debates for (and against) the safety of the marijuana plant and in particular its impact on the young people of America. Fast forward through the years to 2018, where cannabis is legal in 30 states for medicinal use (and in 9 others for recreational use), and these arguments for the younger generation are becoming even louder!

But what is the truth here? Has the legality of marijuana led the youths of today on a slippery slope to “full-blown drug addiction,” as many have hypothesized? In this article, we are going to get to the truth of the matter around decriminalizing cannabis, and the impact it has had on young people.

Exploring Marijuana

Cannabis has always been a hot topic, and despite it being around and used by humans for thousands of years, it has always been at the center of controversy. With many countries across the world STILL refusing to make it legal, the debate continues to be present on a weekly basis.

In the beginning, people used marijuana for building materials and medicines, but as time has gone on, the stigma around the plant has grown – and with it has its popularity!

Due to its psychoactive cannabinoid THC, the cannabis plant is constantly facing ridicule as an addictive, dangerous substance (despite overwhelming evidence that states otherwise). Without a doubt, one of the driving forces behind those who are fighting to keep marijuana at arm’s length is the effect it could be having on the young people of America. With an increase in availability, there is a fear that a cannabis “epidemic” might break out amongst the young and vulnerable U.S. population.

What Is the Truth Behind Young People and Cannabis Use?

Until the past five years or so, research into the impact cannabis decriminalization is having on young people has been pretty non-existent. It goes without saying that, as the drug has become more understood for its health benefits and abilities to treat so many serious conditions, there have been more social studies done into the impact of the drug on society as a whole.

Within this, there has been more focus placed upon how weed becoming legal has impacted young people. Namely, the singular question is this: has its legality and availability led to a dramatic increase in young people getting high?

Well, the short answer to this, actually, is no.

Through the studies and surveys that have been carried out thus far, there is, in fact, an overwhelming number of states that have shown no change – or even a DECREASE – in the amount of cannabis that’s being consumed by young people.

The Facts

In Colorado, for example, which is one of the most forward-thinking states when it comes to cannabis use (it’s been legal here both medicinally and recreationally for going on five years), a study highlighted just how far from the truth these concerns about youth pot addiction were!

In 2015, for instance, it was revealed that 21% of Colorado youths had used marijuana within a period of the past 30 days, which was LOWER than the national average! When we compare this figure to the same study done back in 2009, before cannabis was legalized, we see a surprising decrease in overall use (down from 25%).

Colorado isn’t the only state whose young people are fighting against the preconceived stereotypes, however. In Oregon, another state where weed is recreationally legal, a study done by Dr. Julie C. Rusby for the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors had this to say about the state’s put-using youth population: “Although legalization of recreational marijuana prohibits use among those under 21 years old, changes in youth attitudes towards the marijuana “age of initiation” and frequency of use may occur.” This follows specific findings which suggested that those younger people who had been exposed to cannabis in the past, were much more likely to continue smoking it or increase their intake after the drug was made legal in their state.

Moreover, in a Monitoring the Future Study into drug abuse, findings revealed that while vaping was popular amongst teens in 2017, there was an all-time low in opioid abuse. Also, it’s been well-documented that the popularity around cannabis vaping has led to a dramatic decrease in tobacco use, which, knowing what we known about the perils of nicotine, has to be a good thing — right?

Final Thoughts

From the sample of studies that we have provided, it is clear to see that America’s youths are not entirely living up to the expectations of so many who believed that cannabis would be a detriment to society if/when it was made legal.

In fact, with cannabis becoming legal, statistics have shown pretty much the opposite; that there has NOT been an influx of weed use among young people. More importantly, it appears that the legal changes have in fact improved overall health, considering the statistics on decreased tobacco smoking and decreased opioid abuse.  With dangerous drug misuse at an all-time low, and alcohol and tobacco use decreasing by the month, it seems like the reality of pot legalization is much more favorable than many predicted!

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