Most opponents of cannabis reform had one argument against pro-cannabis legislation: passing state-level recreational cannabis bills would inevitably lead to increased use among the youth. They argued that marijuana was a gateway drug and that by making the controversial plant more accessible, states would see their youth use marijuana and other “hard drugs” at much higher rates. However, most studies have found the situation on the ground to be entirely different, with rates of youth use in states with recreational cannabis markets remaining the same and, in some cases, even going down.
A recent federal report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (“NCES”) corroborates what previous studies have concluded. Marijuana legalization at the state level has not led to increased cannabis use among the country’s youth. To arrive at this conclusion, NCES analyzed youth surveys of high school students that were conducted from 2009, long before any state had launched recreational cannabis sales, to 2019. The report found that among the percentage of teenagers in grades 9-12 who reported using cannabis at least once in the past 30 days, there was no measurable difference from 2009 to 2019.
The data, which was sourced from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, showed that although 16 states have legalized recreational cannabis within the past decade, youth access to the drug remained stable. There have been no major changes in the percentage of teenagers who admit that they have been sold, gifted or offered illicit drugs on school grounds in the preceding 30 days. When the data is compared to the timeline of legalization, things get even more interesting.
Back in 2009 when there were no adult-use markets in the country, 21% of high school students reported having consumed cannabis within the past 30 days. A decade later, when the United States had nearly a dozen state-level recreational cannabis markets, 22% of high schoolers admitted to recently consuming cannabis. The highest reported rate of cannabis use among the youth was in 2011, and at that point, no state had legalized recreational cannabis. Consequently, the NCES concluded, there was no “measurable difference: in the percentage of students who said they had access to illicit drugs on school grounds between 2009 and 2019.
With most states that allow recreational cannabis placing age limits (usually 21 years) and requiring customers to provide IDs before purchasing cannabis, youth may have even reduced access to cannabis than they did before adult-use cannabis was legal. A lot of misinformation has been circulating about marijuana, and such federal reports help industry players such as Hero Technologies Inc. (OTC: HENC) to have one less myth to debunk.
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