Researchers Find No Jump in Teen Marijuana Use, Despite Legalization

reefer madness teen drug use
“Reefer Madness” is a 1936 American propaganda drama which depicts high school students lured by dealers into trying marijuana which then leads them down a path to suicide, attempted rape, hallucinations, murder and descent into madness.

If the “Reefer Madness” scare tactics masquerading as “public service” announcements were to be believed, pot should already be rampant among high-schoolers, now that that the country has embraced legal weed in four states and D.C.

After all, “parents who use drugs, have children who use drugs,” or so the propaganda of the 1990s said, right?

Parents who use drugs, have children who use drugs

Except the numbers just aren’t there. Marijuana use among teens saw no such sequitur in the annual “Monitoring the Future” survey — the one funded via grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Released on Wednesday, the survey also shows that for the first time since 1975, more high school seniors said they smoked pot every day compared to those who smoke cigarettes.

Daily marijuana use eclipsing daily cigarette use might seem troubling to some — until you look at the numbers.

The new data shows 6% of 12th graders used cannabis every day — about the same as last year.

However, cigarette smoking in the same group showed a 1.2% drop, from 5.5% to 6.7%.

Fewer students also think marijuana is dangerous.

Roughly 32% of high school seniors reported they thought regular marijuana use could be harmful, a 4% drop over last year.

“The sense that marijuana has medicinal purposes and that doctors are prescribing it, creates a sense that this drug cannot be so harmful,” Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health (the group that funded the research) told the Washington Post.

So where are all the kids hopping mad on reefer? The NIH apparently doesn’t know — they expected use among teens to rise in light of the increasingly positive attitudes towards pot all over the world.

After all, the move towards legal weed surrounds their ‘impressionable’ young minds. Four states and the nation’s capital allow legal, recreational marijuana use. Canada is quickly moving towards national recreational legalization and regulation, and Mexico’s highest court has declared the use and cultivation of marijuana a “human right.”

“All of those factors have led many to predict that there would be an increase in the pattern of use of marijuana among teenagers, and we are not seeing it,” Volkow says.

Marijuana information NIH Teenagers who smoke weed

In fact while marijuana use stayed roughly the same — teen use of other, more dangerous drugs declined: the date could go a long way to disproving the age-old “marijuana is a gateway drug” theory.

While marijuana was the only substance in the report that did not decline in usage, usage rates for cigarettes, alcohol, K2/Spice, prescription opioid pain relievers, and heroin saw record lows or remained stable, despite the fact that opioid and heroin abuse among adults has seen troubling spikes nationally.

“Continued areas of concern are the high rate of daily marijuana smoking seen among high school students, because of marijuana’s potential deleterious effects on the developing brains of teenagers, and the high rates of overall tobacco products and nicotine containing e-cigarettes usage,” Volkow said in a statement to the press.

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