Teens Say No To Pot, Despite Legalization

By Bryan Le 09/11/17

Despite the fretting of legalization opponents, teens haven’t gone wild with marijuana now that it’s legal.

Teen girl rejects offer of marijuana from teen boy in high school.
Teens are just saying no.

Last year, marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-old Americans dropped to its lowest levels in 20 years, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

According to the survey data, marijuana use among this age range was just 6.5% last year. This development defies some predictions by legalization naysayers, who believed that marijuana use would grow rampant once the stuff went into circulation in 2014 in Washington and Colorado, after recreational marijuana became legal there.

The last time marijuana use was this low among adolescents was back in 1994.

Marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds is concerning to health experts because some studies have found that daily teenage marijuana use is linked to long-term memory loss as well as stunted problem-solving and an inability to maintain relationships. 

Brain scans revealed that teen tokers had an unusually-shaped hippocampus—the part of the brain related to memory—and performed 18% worse on long-term memory tests than their smoke-free peers. Researchers also found that more consecutive years of marijuana use were correlated to more respective hippocampus deformation and long-term memory loss among those tested.

The SAMHSA data also revealed that, unlike use among teens, adult marijuana use has been on the rise. Surveys reveal that about 20.8% of American adults between the ages of 18 and 25 years old and 14.5% of Americans between 26 and 34 used marijuana monthly in 2016—record levels not reached since 1985.

Surprisingly, this uptick is not correlated with the legalization of marijuana, having been on the rise since long before recreational marijuana was green-lighted for recreational use, The Washington Post noted.

Marijuana legalization has also proven not to be the harbinger of doom that critics made it out to be in many ways. Instead of creating chaos on the roads, preliminary data in Colorado saw near-record lows of traffic fatalities following legalization in the state.

The only thing that marijuana legalization seems to be on the edge of destroying is beer sales. According to NIDA, one in four beer drinkers surveyed would prefer to smoke pot instead.

Whether this data changes the mind of Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions—who believes marijuana is only "slightly less awful" than heroin—remains to be seen.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter