Teens Living In US States Allowing Medical Marijuana Smoke Less Cannabis

MASSACHUSETTS: According to a large-scale study of American high school students, legalizing medicinal marijuana has actually led to a drop in cannabis use among teenagers.

The study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse used the results of an anonymous survey given to more than 800,000 high school students across 45 states to calculate the number of teens who smoke cannabis.

It found that the number of teenage cannabis smokers was 1.1% less in states that had enacted medical marijuana laws (MML) compared to those that hadn’t, even when accounting for other important variables such as tobacco and alcohol policies, economic trends, youth characteristics and state demographics.

“We found that for every group of 100 adolescents, one fewer will be a current user of marijuana following the enactment of medical marijuana laws,” says Dr Rebekah Levine Coley, a Professor of psychology at Boston College, who led the study.

“When we looked at particular subgroups of adolescents, this reduction became even more pronounced. For example 3.9% less Black and 2.7% less Hispanic youths now use marijuana in states with MML”.

As the survey was administered over a period of 16 years, the researchers were able to compare the changes in teenager’s marijuana use in states that adopted MML with those that hadn’t, allowing them to more precisely pinpoint the effects of the legislation. Intriguingly, the study found that the longer the laws had been in place, the greater the reduction in teen marijuana use.

The results shine a light on an important debate taking place in America about the relative benefits and risks of decriminalizing marijuana.

“Some people have argued that decriminalizing or legalizing medical marijuana could increase cannabis use amongst young people, either by making it easier for them to access, or by making it seem less harmful.” says Dr Rebekah Levine Coley.

“However, we saw the opposite effect. We were not able to determine why this is, but other research has suggested that after the enactment of medical marijuana laws, youths’ perceptions of the potential harm of marijuana use actually increased. Alternatively, another theory is that as marijuana laws are becoming more lenient, parents may be increasing their supervision of their children, or changing how they talk to them about drug use.”

Importantly the study found that unlike medical marijuana laws, decriminalizing recreational marijuana had no noticeable effect on adolescents’ cannabis use, except for a small decline in marijuana smoking among 14-year olds and people from Hispanic backgrounds, and an increase in use among white adolescents. Neither policies had any effect on frequent or heavy users of marijuana, suggesting that these students are not easily influenced by state laws.

NIH: Teen Marijuana Use Not Increasing Despite Legalization

MARYLAND: Self-reported marijuana use by adolescents has failed to increase in recent years despite the majority of states legalizing it for either medical or adult use, according to the latest data compiled by the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, which is commissioned by the US National Institutes on Drug Abuse. NIDA is a part of the US National Institutes of Health.

Summarizing the findings in a press release, the agency acknowledged: “Rates of marijuana use by teens have been of great interest to researchers over the past decade, given major social and legislative shifts around the drug; it is now legal for adult recreational use in 10 states plus the District of Columbia, and it is available medicinally in many more. Fortunately, even as teens’ attitudes toward marijuana’s harms continue to relax, they are not showing corresponding increases in marijuana use.”

Marijuana use prevalence by young people did not change significantly between 2017 and 2018, the survey reported. Between the years 2012 and 2018, both rates of lifetime marijuana use and rates of annual marijuana use by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders have declined. Ten states have enacted laws regulating adult marijuana use during this same period of time, and several others have legalized medical cannabis access.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Further data is available from NORML’s fact-sheet, “Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.”

 

California: Teen Marijuana Use Declines Post-Legalization

CALIFORNIA: Marijuana use by adolescents continues to decline in California, according to statewide data provided by the California Healthy Kids Survey, a biennial survey funded by the Departments of Health and Education.

Among 7th graders, 4.2 percent reported ever having used cannabis during the years 2015 to 2017, as compared to 7.9 percent during the years 2013 to 2015 (-47 percent). Among 9th graders, 17.4 percent reported ever having used cannabis during the years 2015 to 2017, as compared to 23.1 percent during the years 2013 to 2015 (-25 percent). Among 11th graders, 31.9 percent reported ever having used cannabis during the years 2015 to 2017, as compared to 37.9 percent during the years 2013 to 2015 (-16 percent).

The percentage of teens reporting using cannabis multiple times and/or repeatedly within the past 30 days also declined for all age groups.

“These initial reports confirm that legalizing and regulating cannabis doesn’t increase youth marijuana use, but rather it has the opposite effect,” said Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML. “The fact that the biggest drop in reported use came from younger age groups is a particularly encouraging indicator of the success of regulation.”

California law legalized the adult use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana by adults in November of 2016. Retail adult use marijuana sales did not go into effect until January 1, 2018.

The findings are consistent with those of other studies and surveys from other states finding that the enactment of adult marijuana use laws is not associated with upticks in young people’s use of marijuana or access to the substance.


For more information, please contact California NORML here. Full text of the study, “School Climate, Substance Use, and Well-being Among California Students: 2015-2017,” appears online here.

Federal Government Reports Teen Marijuana Use In Colorado Still Has NOT Increased Since Legalization

Five years after Colorado voters decided to regulate marijuana for adult use, rates of current and lifetime use among high school students remain relatively unchanged and on par with national averages

COLORADO: A new federal report shows rates of teen marijuana use in Colorado have still not increased since voters decided to end marijuana prohibition in 2012 and start regulating it similarly to alcohol for adult use.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found 19.6 percent of Colorado students are currently using marijuana (compared to 19.8 percent nationwide), down from 21.2 percent in 2015 and 22 percent in 2011, the year before voters approved Amendment 64. The rate of lifetime use dropped to 35.5 percent in 2017 (compared to 35.6 percent nationwide), down from 38 percent in 2015 and 39.5 percent in 2011.

The Colorado and nationwide data for 2017 are available at the CDC website. The CDC released the nationwide YRBS data late last week, and it appears to have released the state-level data sometime this week.

Statement from Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson Mason Tvert, who co-directed the campaign in support of Amendment 64:

“After five years of marijuana being legal for adults in Colorado, government surveys continue to find no increase in usage rates among high school students. This is very welcome news for Colorado, and it should be particularly welcome news for those who opposed the state’s legalization for fear it would lead to an explosion in teen use. Hopefully it will allay opponents’ concerns in other states where voters or lawmakers are considering proposals to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. Colorado is proof that you can prevent teen marijuana use without arresting thousands of responsible adult marijuana consumers every year. Rather than debating whether marijuana should be legal for adults, let’s focus on how we can regulate it and control it to make it less available to teens.”

Report: Teen Marijuana Use, Treatment Admissions Fall In Washington State Post-Legalization

WASHINGTON: The regulation of adult cannabis use in Washington is not associated with any increase in teens’ marijuana consumption or abuse rates, according to a report to the state legislature compiled by researchers at the Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

Authors reported that rates of current marijuana use and lifetime marijuana use have fallen among young people since lawmakers enacted legalization in 2012. These declines were most pronounced among 8th and 10th graders.

Among adults, rates of cannabis use have increased. However, there has been no corresponding rise in adults’ use of alcohol or tobacco, or in the number of adults seeking treatment for marijuana abuse during this time period.

Researchers concluded: “We found no evidence that I-502 enactment, on the whole, affected cannabis abuse treatment admissions. … [and] we found no evidence that the amount of legal cannabis sales affected youth substance use or attitudes about cannabis or drug-related criminal convictions.”

Separate studies from Colorado and Oregon similarly report that the enactment of adult use marijuana regulations has not adversely impacted youth use patterns in those states.

Drug Use Declines Among American Youth: Past-Year Marijuana Use Remains Relatively Stable

NEW YORK:  The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Study (MTF), an annual survey tracking teen drug abuse among approximately 45,000 8th-, 10th- and 12th- graders, shows some positive inroads and encouraging news in substance use trends among American youth. The new survey data show a continued long-term decline in the use of many substances, including alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, Ecstasy, as well as the misuse of some prescription medications, among 8th- 10th-, and 12th graders. The MTF survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Findings from the survey indicate that past-year use of any illicit drug was the lowest in the survey’s history for 8th graders, while past-year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana is down from recent peaks across all three grades. Use of several illicit drugs – including MDMA (known as Ecstasy or Molly), heroin, cocaine and synthetic marijuana – showed a noted decline in this year’s data. Marijuana use among our nation’s youth remained relatively stable; though teens’ perception of risk associated with marijuana use continue to soften.

Marijuana Use Remained Stable Among Teens in the U.S.
While the survey found that past-month marijuana use among 8th graders dropped significantly in 2016 to 5.4 percent, from 6.5 percent in 2015, almost a quarter of high school seniors (22.5 percent) report past-month marijuana use and 6 percent report daily use; both measures remained relatively stable from last year. Similarly, rates of marijuana use in the past year among 10th graders also remained stable compared to 2015, but are at their lowest levels in over two decades.

The new data also confirm that teens who live in states where medical marijuana is legal report a higher use of marijuana edibles. Among 12th graders reporting marijuana use in the past year, 40.2 percent consumed marijuana in food in states with medical marijuana laws compared to 28.1 percent in states without such laws.

Attitudes toward marijuana use have softened, but perception of harm is not necessarily linked to rates of use. For example, 44 percent of 10th graders perceive regular marijuana smoking as harmful (“great risk”), but only 2.5 percent of them used marijuana daily in 2016. This compares to a decade ago when 64.9 percent of 10th graders perceived marijuana as harmful and 2.8 percent of them used it daily. The number of eighth graders who say marijuana is easy to get is at its lowest in the history of the survey, at 34.6 percent.

Teen Misuse and Abuse of Rx Medicines Trending Downward, But Still at High Levels
MTF also found although non-medical use of prescription opioids remains a serious issue in the adult population, teen use of prescription opioid pain relievers is trending downward among 12th graders with a 45 percent drop in past-year use compared to five years ago. The past-year rate for non-medical use of all opioid pain relievers among 12th graders is at 4.8 percent, down significantly from its peak of 9.5 percent in 2004, while the past-year non-medical use of Vicodin among high school seniors is now lower than misuse of OxyContin (2.9 percent compared to 3.4 percent). Past-year non-medical use of Adderall, a prescription stimulant used to treat Attention Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is relatively stable at 6.2 percent for 12th graders. However, non-medical use of Ritalin dropped to 1.2 percent, compared to 2 percent last year, and a peak of 5.1 percent in 2004.

Eighth graders alone reported an increase in misuse of over-the-counter cough medicine at 2.6 percent, up from 1.6 percent in 2015, but still lower than the peak of 4.2 percent when first measured in 2006.

“While we are pleased to see that marijuana use has stabilized among teens, 6 percent of high school seniors reporting that they smoke marijuana every day is still unacceptably high. The MTF survey also found that more teens report using marijuana edibles in states where marijuana has been legalized and a softening of attitudes about the dangers associated with this drug – this is a real cause for concern,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “The recent declines in the abuse of prescription opioids among teens are also encouraging. But the persistently high percentage of teens who report abusing stimulants is also worrisome. The Partnership has been working for quite some time through our Medicine Abuse Project to help educate parents, families and communities about the risks of medicine abuse and we are glad to see continued progress.”

Taylor added, “It’s important to remember that while today’s news about substance use among teens is mostly positive, we cannot let that take our focus off of the prescription drug and heroin crisis among other age groups across the U.S. As a country, we need to focus more of our attention and resources on early intervention and addressing substance use disorders, rather than cleaning up a problem once it has reached epidemic levels.”

The 2016 MTF survey of approximately 40,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades also found:

  • Inhalant use, usually the only category of drugs used more by younger teens than their older counterparts, was down significantly among eighth graders compared to last year, with past year use at 3.8 percent, compared to 4.6 percent in 2015. Past-year inhalant use peaked among eighth graders in 1995 at 12.8 percent.
  • Use of MDMA (known as Ecstasy and Molly) has been falling since 2010 and is at its lowest point for all three grades in the history of the MTF survey. Past-year use is down among 8th graders to just 1 percent, from last year’s 1.4 percent.
  • Cigarette smoking continued a decades­ long decline. A large drop in the use of tobacco cigarettes was seen in all three grades, with a long-term decline from their peak use more than 20 years ago. For example, in 1991, when MTF first measured cigarette smoking, 10.7 percent of high school seniors smoked a half pack or more a day. Twenty-five years later, that rate has dropped to only 1.8 percent. MTF indicates that marijuana and electronic vaporizers (e-cigarettes) are more popular than regular tobacco cigarettes. The past-month rates among 12th graders are 12.5 percent for vaporizers and 10.5 percent for cigarettes.
  • Alcohol use by the nation’s teens also continued its long-term decline in 2016, with the rate of teens reporting they have “been drunk” in the past year at the survey’s lowest rates ever. For example, 37.3 percent of 12th graders reported they have been drunk at least once, down from a peak of 53.2 percent in 2001.
  • The proportion of secondary school students using heroin has fallen gradually over the past few years, and it continued a gradual decrease in all three grades in 2015. Heroin rates remain low with teens still in school and in the history of the MTF survey, heroin (with a needle) rates have never been higher than 0.7 percent among 12th graders, as seen in 2010.

Studies: Changes In Marijuana’s Legal Status Not Associated With Increased Use By Young People

NEW YORK: Changes in marijuana’s legal status under state law is not associated with increased cannabis use or access by young people, according to pair of recently published studies.

In the first study, published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, researchers at Columbia University in New York surveyed the marijuana use habits of a national sampling of 1,310 adolescents over a two-year period. Investigators assessed whether respondents from states with liberalized cannabis policies were more likely to acknowledge having consumed cannabis as compared to those residing in jurisdictions where the substance remains criminally prohibited.

Authors reported that the study’s findings “failed to show a relationship between adolescents’ use of marijuana and state laws regarding marijuana use. … [They] suggest that eased sanctions on adult marijuana use are not associated with higher prevalence rates of marijuana use among adolescents.”

In the second study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a team of investigators from Columbia University, the University of California at Davis, and Boston University examined the relationship between medical cannabis laws and the prevalence of marijuana availability and use by adolescents and by those age 26 or older. Authors reported no changes over a nine-year period (2004 to 2013) with regard to the past-month prevalence of marijuana use by those ages 12 to 17 or those between the ages of 18 and 25. Those age 25 and younger also experienced no change in their perception of marijuana’s availability. By contrast, self-reported marijuana use and perceived availability increased among adults age 26 or older during this same time period.

The conclusions are similar to those of numerous separate studies reporting that changes in marijuana’s legal status are not associated with any uptick in teens’ use of the substance, such as those hereherehere, and here.

 

Legal Weed Having Little Effect On Teen Marijuana Use, Federal Data Shows

Federal data released this week found there was no change in monthly marijuana use in nearly every U.S. state compared to last year. The only significant changes were in Rhode Island, Ohio and Hawaii, where monthly marijuana use fell year over year.

The latest state-level data, which asks participants if they used marijuana in the past month, is particularly useful, as it covers the first year of legal recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington. While the rate of monthly teen marijuana use did tick upward in those states, the change wasn’t statistically significant, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which released the data.

In Colorado, 12.6 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds used marijuana monthly in the combined years 2013 and 2014, up slightly from 11.2 percent in 2012-2013.  (SAMHSA combines years for state-level estimates to increase the sample size.) Similarly, in Washington, the monthly teen marijuana use rate was 10.1 percent in 2013-2014, compared with 9.8 percent in 2012-2013.

Leading Anti-Marijuana Group Got Its Facts Wrong

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: “HHS finds heavy marijuana use soaring among young people,” the press release from Project SAM, the nation’s leading anti-marijuana legalization group, said. “Today, the Department of Health and Human Services found that heavy marijuana use among monthly users – defined as 20 or more days of marijuana use per month – significantly increased among 12-to-17 year-olds in 2014 compared to 2013.”

Alarming findings indeed — but untrue.

Here are the actual numbers (highlighted below), which appear in data fromthe latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which just came out this week. In 2013, roughly 451,000 teens smoked marijuana 20 or more days per month. In 2014, that number dropped to 400,000, according to the survey’s estimates. That number is, in fact, the lowest it’s been since at least 2009.

That drop is not statistically significant, according to the survey. In other words, the number of kids smoking 20-plus days per month is essentially flat year-over-year, and has been for awhile. So how did Project SAM go from that to “heavy marijuana use soaring among young people?” It turns out they were looking at the wrong part of the report.

 

High Schoolers Use E-Cigarettes To Vape Marijuana: U.S. Study

OHIO: Nearly one in five high school students who said they used electronic cigarettes to vaporize nicotine also used them to vaporize pot, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 Connecticut teens.

The study, published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, is the first evidence that teens are using electronic cigarettes to vaporize cannabis, the researchers said.

The paper by Meghan Morean of Oberlin College in Ohio and colleagues raises concerns that the rising popularity of e-cigarettes may encourage teens to use the devices to vaporize cannabis, potentially exposing them to higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“Forms of cannabis that can be vaporized, like hash oil, can be many times stronger than marijuana that is smoked,” Morean said in an email.