There’s an interesting development in the world of cannabis. Statistics show that teen marijuana use declines as adult legalization increases.

According to statistics, teen marijuana use declines from 2019 to 2021 hitting a record low compared to surveys conducted since 2011. This is according to a federal biennial report released a couple of weeks ago. This is the direct opposite of adult use trends which have been steadily increasing as legalization is becoming more widespread. 

Study Showing Teen Marijuana Use Declines

The study showing teen marijuana use declines comes in the form of a survey provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) revealed that 16% of high school students reported using in the last 30 days in 2021 as compared to 22% in 2019. 

In the last decade, the percentage of students using marijuana tended to fall in the low 20th percentile making the current 16% a remarkable decline. Similar trends are showing for alcohol and prescription opioids making for a step in the “right direction”.

Interestingly, although marijuana use declines among teens, the percentage of female students who use it has almost remained the same. 

According to the survey, 14% of male students used marijuana in the last 30 days- down from a previous 26% in 2011, while female students’ usage went from 20% to 18%, a much smaller decrease. 

“Female students were more likely than male students to use marijuana. Black students were more likely than Asian, Hispanic, and White students to currently use marijuana. LGBQ+ students and students with any same-sex partners were more likely than their peers to currently use marijuana,” the survey noted. 

The Reason Why Teen Marijuana Use Declines

So what is the reason teen marijuana use declines? Advocates maintain that it’s due to more regulation including policies like ID verification. It also may be that 2021 statistics were affected by the pandemic which socially isolated kids and left them at home with their parents. 

However, long-term statistics show the trend of teen marijuana use declines is persisting as the number of teen users didn’t increase after pandemic lockdowns were lifted. A growing body of scientific literature shows that student user stats are remaining consistent. 

For example, a 2022 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study which was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that state-level cannabis legalization is not associated with increased use among youth. 

It found that “youth who spent more of their adolescence under legalization were no more or less likely to have used cannabis at age 15 years than adolescents who spent little or no time under legalization.”

States first started legalizing marijuana in 2012 with commercial sales beginning in 2014. 

It’s also possible that teens are having difficulty getting their hands on marijuana. The growing legalization has put many illegal weed dealers out of business. This limits teens as they are unable to get weed from dispensaries due to legal reasons, not to mention rising prices. 

Another theory is the forbidden fruit theory. It may be that teens are less likely to use marijuana knowing their parents are doing it and think it’s okay. However, most studies show that children whose parents use marijuana are more likely to use it themselves. 

Other Studies Show Teen Marijuana Use Declines

Teen Marijuana Use Declines

Other surveys have noted similar trends of teen marijuana use declines as adult legalization increases. 

For example, another 2022 federally funded study coming from Michigan State University published in the journal PLOS One revealed, “cannabis retail sales might be followed by the increased occurrence of cannabis onset for older adults (in legal states) but not for underage persons who cannot buy cannabis products in a retail outlet.”

The latest version of a biennial state survey coming out of Colorado showed marijuana use among teens decreased significantly in 2021. 

A 2022 California study found “there was a 100% compliance with the ID policy to keep underage patrons from purchasing marijuana products directly from licensed outlets.”

The Coalition for Cannabis Policy Education and Regulation (CPEAR), an alcohol and tobacco industry-backed marijuana policy group, released a 2022 report that analyzed data on youth marijuana use amid state-level legalization and found a decline. 

The federally-funded National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) came out in October of 2022 showing teen marijuana use declines in 2020 during times of COVID lockdowns and increased legalization. 

An analysis published by the Journal of American Medical Association in 2021 revealed that the increased legalization impacted adolescent cannabis consumption so that it is “statistically indistinguishable from zero”.

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics analyzed surveys of high school students from 2009 to 2019 and found that there was “no measurable difference in 30-day consumption rates in students in grades 9-12. 

The CDC found similar results regarding cannabis use in students in grades 9-12 from 2009 – 2019. The organization also analyzed a quadratic change model which revealed lifetime marijuana consumption also decreased during this period. 

A 2020 Colorado study showed that cannabis consumption among the state’s youth has not significantly changed since it was legalized in 2012, although methods of consumption are diversifying.