420 with CNW — Research Finds No Link Between Recreational Cannabis Legalization and Teen Use

October 28, 2020 03:25:29

Since 2012, eleven states have legalized cannabis use for adults, with many voters across the country considering the same measures on 2020 ballots in numerous states. The first states to legalize the drug were Washington and Colorado; California followed suit.

Most concerns about legalization center on whether making the drug legal would cause more young people to use it or whether accidents caused by impaired drivers would increase. Data collected since then shows little change in usage or impaired driving accidents.

For example, a survey carried out in Colorado after legalization showed a slight decrease in the percentage of high school and middle school students who used cannabis. In Washington, the rates of use have largely remained stagnant.

However, opponents of cannabis legalization still claim that the risk of young people being given the impression that cannabis isn’t harmful is too high.

With regard to impaired driving, states with legalized cannabis have discovered more drivers impaired by the drug. Many believe, however, the numbers are going up because the states are putting more effort into identifying those specific statistics. For example, Colorado started tracking cannabis impairment of drivers in 2016.

In California, data collected indicated an increase in the number of impaired drivers involved in deadly accidents. Washington state recorded a growth in drugged driving both before and after cannabis was legalized, showing no significant change that might be attributed to legalization of the specific drug.

Officials also aren’t convinced that these increases are a result of legalization. Researchers have also not indicated a growth in the total number of traffic fatalities linked to legalization. For instance, when compared to the number of traffic fatalities in 2017, California recorded 8.3% fewer traffic fatalities in 2018, the same year that retail cannabis sales were launched in the state.

According to the CDC, Washington and Colorado recorded among the highest rates of cannabis use by youth in the country between 2011–2015. State data shows that those figures did not increase after the drug was legalized for adults.

Also in Washington, a survey carried out in collaboration with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction indicated no growth in the numbers of sixth, eighth, tenth and twelfth graders using cannabis after legalized sales started in 2014. Surveys conducted in Colorado showed similar results; in fact, numbers actually indicate that the number of high school and middle school students who used cannabis decreased after legalization.

While California is yet to make public its youth biennial survey results since recreational sales started in 2018 in the state, a previous survey indicated a 3.4% decrease in the number of young people who used the drug.

From the above, it appears that there’s no significant increase in adolescent use of the drug after it is legalized. While more should be done to combat impaired driving, benefits may be gained from legalization. Furthermore, states such as Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota are proposing recreational legalization of the drug in their jurisdictions, which provides additional evidence that cannabis legalization is a good move.

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