As more states legalize marijuana and more conservatives see the potential financial progress that can be made from its legalization, many have become concerned about the youth of America. With the pandemic limiting social interactions with many youths, a lot of naysayers began to surmise that the decline we saw in youth use from 2022 to 2021 was due to the pandemic.
With National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow even pushing that perspective, many expected to see youth use explode in 2021 to 2022 as states reopened, schools went back in person, and people began to return to normal. Instead, a survey from Monitoring the Future (MTF) as cited by NIDA shows a minimal change in 8th, 10th, and 12th-grade marijuana use.
8th grades showed 5% reported using in the last month, a slight uptick from the 4.1% the year prior, and down significantly from 6.5% in 2020, and much lower than the 11.3% peak in 1996; well before legal adult use was in existence. 10th graders came in at 12.1%, and 10.1% in 2021. While a small increase, it’s much lower than the 16.6% in 2020, and 20.5% in the 1997 peak. 12th graders naturally held the top spot with 20.2%, compared to 19.1% in 2021. Still a vast improvement from the 37.8% in 1978.
NIDA officials who spoke to Marijuana Moment see these numbers as a good thing. “Cannabis use remained stable for all three grades surveyed.” They went on to explain how these figures broke down.
“Of note, 6.0 percent of eighth graders, 15.0 percent of 10th graders, and 20.6 percent of 12th graders reported vaping cannabis within the past year, reflecting a stable trend at the pre-pandemic level among eighth and 12th graders, and a small increase in reported use among 10th graders, though reported use among 10th graders in 2022 is still significantly below pre-pandemic levels.”
MTF has been monitoring teen drug use for nearly 50 years. To NIDA, they are the gold standard for tracking substance abuse. Volkow explained in a press release that this survey is “one of the best and most timely tools we have to monitor and understand changes in substance use among young people over time, including through historic events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It is encouraging that we did not observe a significant increase in substance use in 2022, even as young people largely returned to in-person school, extracurricular activities, and other social engagements.”
This kind of data is hard to find and is a huge help to decision-makers at all levels. Many students have feared that administrators would out them to their parents, so for years they would lie about it. Now, kids are more willing to be open thanks to many not being worried about the stigma that used to come with cannabis use. Especially with so many who now have parents who are using it for medicine for things like anxiety, PTSD, and chronic illness.
Data like this bucks the trend of many prohibitionists that think that marijuana use would skyrocket with its legalization. The Journal of Preventative Medicine published another NIDA study that also showcased the lack of correlation between legalization and teen use. In this study, they found that there was no difference in use for 15-year-olds who lived in legalized areas versus ones who didn’t.
The prohibitionists who want to see cannabis demonized are not willing to look at the data and realize that it serves as a huge tax boom to the states. Tourism increases, and the data for other drug use as well as DUIs support the idea of legalization. At this point, the only ones who are opposing the legalization of cannabis are the Reefer Madness-obsessed people. They come on both sides of the aisle and have no clue about cannabis beyond what some fear-monger told them back in the 1960s.