Pot Use Down, Disapproval Up Among Young Adolescents

By Paul Gaita 07/20/15

The study’s findings stand in contrast to certain fears over marijuana legalization.

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A new study reveals that not only have young people between the ages of 12 and 14 used marijuana less over the past decade, but have also registered strong disapproval in regard to using it at all.

The study, published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse on July 9, examined trends in marijuana use among three age groups: younger adolescents (ages 12-14), older adolescents (ages 15-17), and young adults (ages 18-25).

Self-reported results culled from these three groups showed that between 2002 and 2013, there was a 25% decline in the number of younger teens stating that they had used marijuana in the course of a single year. During this same time period, disapproval over what the report termed as “marijuana use initiation” had increased from 74% to 79%.

Among older adolescents, the report found that marijuana use had declined slightly between 2002 and 2013, from 26% to 22%. However, no difference was observed in regard to disapproval over marijuana use, while young adults experienced both an increase in marijuana use, from 30% to 32% and a decrease in disapproval, from 41% in 2002, and 23% in 2013.

Study author Christopher Salas-Wright, a professor of social work at the University of Texas at Austin, noted that the study’s findings stand in contrast to certain fears over marijuana legalization.

“Recent changes in public policy, including the decriminalization and medicalization of marijuana in cities and states across the country, have not resulted in greater approval of marijuana use among younger adolescents,” he said.

However, he also acknowledged that the same policy changes may have been responsible for the increase among young adults. “Increased exposure to marijuana may be influencing how young adults feel about marijuana, but not necessarily their own use,” he said.

Ultimately, Salas-Wright believes that the study results provide a significant glimpse into the changing perception of marijuana among young people at a national level, and may prove useful to policymakers considering the issue of legalization in their own areas.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.