Trends In Marijuana Use Among Students, Youth marijuana use can have adverse health outcomes. However, reports from Colorado, Oregon, and Washington indicate no statewide increase in youth marijuana use following retail legalization for adults.
What is added by this report?
Following 2012 legalization of retail marijuana sale to adults in Washington, past 30–day marijuana use decreased or remained stable through 2016 among King County students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12. Among grade 10 students, the decline in use occurred among males while the rate among females remained steady. Use of alcohol or other substances was four times as frequent among marijuana users as among nonusers.
What are the implications for public health practice?
Understanding reasons for youth marijuana use, particularly among females, might help inform policy, strategies, and educational campaigns.
Legalization And Youth Marijuana Use, According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the annual report produced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“The percentage of adolescents in 2018 who used marijuana in the past year was lower than the percentages in 2002 to 2004 and in 2009 to 2013, but it was similar to the percentages in 2005 to 2008 and in 2014 to 2017,”
Indeed, on a national scale, the percentage of adolescents who reported using marijuana began declining at a greater rate in the years after states started implementing legal cannabis systems. In 2018, 12.5 percent of those 12-17 said they used cannabis in the last month, compared to 13.5 percent in 2012, according to the NSDUH.
Youth Marijuana Risk Behavior Surveys, In the United States, 33 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws (MMLs), while 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Policy makers are particularly concerned that legalization for either medicinal or recreational purposes will encourage marijuana use among youth. Repeated marijuana use during adolescence may lead to long-lasting changes in brain function that adversely affect educational, professional, and social outcomes.1
A 2018 meta-analysis2 concluded that the results from previous studies do not lend support to the hypothesis that MMLs increase marijuana use among youth, while the evidence on the effects of recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) is mixed. For instance, using data from Monitoring the Future, Cerdá et al3 found increased marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders after it was legalized for recreational use in Washington State. However, these authors found no evidence of an association between legalization and adolescent marijuana use in Colorado. Using data from the Washington Healthy Youth Survey, Dilley et al4 found that marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders fell after legalization for recreational purposes.
Here, we report estimates of the association between the legalization of marijuana and its use, simultaneously considering both MMLs and RMLs. Using data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) from 1993 to 2017, more policy variation was captured than in any previous study in the literature, to our knowledge. Between 1993 and 2017, 27 states and Washington, DC, contributed data to the YRBS before and after MML adoption; 7 states contributed data to the YRBS before and after RML adoption.
Student Cannabis Use And Perceptions, Currently, with the legalization of cannabis and the opening of recreational dispensaries in states across the country, the question of whether or not proximity to recreational cannabis dispensaries affects high school students in terms of their cannabis use, their perceptions of the accessibility of cannabis and their perceptions on the harmfulness and wrongfulness of using cannabis is particularly relevant and timely. In 2014 in Colorado, Amendment 64 went into effect and communities were allowed to legally permit recreational cannabis dispensaries; some communities agreed to permit the opening of recreational dispensaries while other communities did not. Using data from the cross-sectional Healthy Kids Colorado Survey collected from students in randomly selected high schools in both 2013 and 2015, data on student use and perceptions towards cannabis use was analyzed comparing communities that permitted recreational cannabis dispensaries and communities that did not.
The random cross-sectional design used a 2X2 factorial ANOVA for each of the dependent factors: use, access, wrongfulness, and harm. There were a total of three communities that permitted recreational dispensaries, and within those three communities, data was collected from seven high schools. There were four communities that did permit recreational dispensaries, and within those four communities, data was collected from five high schools. The data were aggregated into two groups: ‘yes’ allows dispensaries, and ‘no’ does not allow dispensaries. These two groups were used as comparisons in the factorial ANOVA along with the two collection event years of 2013 and 2015.
The analysis indicates differences between students in communities that have never permitted recreational cannabis dispensaries and students in communities that opened recreational dispensaries in 2014. Students in communities that permitted recreational dispensaries used more cannabis, thought cannabis was less harmful, less wrong, and was more difficult to access than high school students in communities that did not permit recreational cannabis dispensaries, however these differences existed before and after recreational dispensaries were introduced in 2014.
Looking at each type of community to see if there was a change between 2013 and 2015, there were no statistically significant differences between students in 2013 and 2015 in each type of community with one exception; students in communities that did not permit recreational cannabis dispensaries felt even more strongly in 2015 that cannabis use is wrong compared to 2013. Based on the 2013 and 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data, permitting or not permitting recreational cannabis dispensaries in a community does not appear to change student cannabis use or perceptions towards cannabis.
Teens Smoke Less Cannabis, According to a large-scale study of American high school students, legalizing medicinal marijuana has actually led to a drop in cannabis use among teenagers.
The study, published today in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse used the results of an anonymous survey given to more than 800,000 high school students across 45 states to calculate the number of teens who smoke cannabis.
It found that the number of teenage cannabis smokers was 1.1% less in states that had enacted medical marijuana laws (MML) compared to those that hadn’t, even when accounting for other important variables such as tobacco and alcohol policies, economic trends, youth characteristics and state demographics.
“We found that for every group of 100 adolescents, one fewer will be a current user of marijuana following the enactment of medical marijuana laws,” says Dr Rebekah Levine Coley, a Professor of psychology at Boston College, who led the study.
“When we looked at particular subgroups of adolescents, this reduction became even more pronounced. For example 3.9% less Black and 2.7% less Hispanic youths now use marijuana in states with MML”.
As the survey was administered over a period of 16 years, the researchers were able to compare the changes in teenager’s marijuana use in states that adopted MML with those that hadn’t, allowing them to more precisely pinpoint the effects of the legislation. Intriguingly, the study found that the longer the laws had been in place, the greater the reduction in teen marijuana use.
The results shine a light on an important debate taking place in America about the relative benefits and risks of decriminalizing marijuana.
“Some people have argued that decriminalizing or legalizing medical marijuana could increase cannabis use amongst young people, either by making it easier for them to access, or by making it seem less harmful.” says Dr Rebekah Levine Coley.
“However, we saw the opposite effect. We were not able to determine why this is, but other research has suggested that after the enactment of medical marijuana laws, youths’ perceptions of the potential harm of marijuana use actually increased. Alternatively, another theory is that as marijuana laws are becoming more lenient, parents may be increasing their supervision of their children, or changing how they talk to them about drug use.”
Importantly the study found that unlike medical marijuana laws, decriminalizing recreational marijuana had no noticeable effect on adolescents’ cannabis use, except for a small decline in marijuana smoking among 14-year olds and people from Hispanic backgrounds, and an increase in use among white adolescents. Neither policies had any effect on frequent or heavy users of marijuana, suggesting that these students are not easily influenced by state laws.
The purpose of this study was to measure compliance with age and personal ID regulations by state-licensed recreational marijuana stores in two states.
Recreational marijuana stores (N = 175) in Colorado and Washington State were each visited twice by pseudo-buyer assessment teams in September 2016 to April 2017. The observer entered the store first, performed an environmental scan, and observed the buyer’s purchase behavior. In both Washington State visits and in the first visit in Colorado, a young-adult buyer attempted to enter the store and purchase marijuana without showing a state-approved ID (i.e., valid driver’s license). In the second Colorado visit, a buyer age 18–20 showed an underage driver’s license and attempted to enter the store and purchase marijuana.
All stores (100%) requested an ID. Stores refused buyers in 73.6% of visits at the entrance, 88.3% cumulative before the counter, and 92.6% by the time of a purchase attempt. Refusal was lower in Washington State (at entry, 53.1%; before the counter, 80.5%; and at purchase attempt, 86.6%) than in Colorado (at entry, 95.3%, p < .01; before the counter, 96.5%, p < .01; and at purchase attempt, 98.8%, p < .01), but it did not differ by buyer protocol (p > .05).
Compliance with laws restricting marijuana sales to individuals 21 or older with a valid ID was high. Compliance in Washington State might be improved by having store personnel check IDs at the store entry. Although recreational stores may not be selling marijuana directly to youth, no information was collected on straw purchases.
Camas-Washougal Post Record Article, February 27th, 2020
Political action committee, launched by New Vansterdam owners, hopes to get issue on November ballot.
Camas Washougal Post Article
When the issue of legalizing cannabis came before Washington voters in 2012, nearly half of Camas voters — 47 percent overall and more than 50 percent in the city’s Ward 1 — supported decriminalizing the drug. But when the issue of opening the one cannabis retail shop allowed in Camas under the state ordinance came before city council members in 2015, the council voted 5-2 to ban marijuana shops within city limits. Now, the owners of a popular Vancouver cannabis shop hope to reverse that decision.
Rachel and James Bean own the New Vansterdam cannabis retail shop located off Mill Plain Boulevard and hold the the lone cannabis retailer license available in Camas. Although the Beans would love to see Camas officials lift the 2015 retailer ban, they are prepared to take the issue to the city’s voters through a local ballot measure process.
“We would hope this could be resolved with the city council. I believe it would just take a little more education and more discussion,” said Rachel Bean. “But we will be moving forward with the (voter) initiative either way.”
Bean and her physician husband have formed the Camas for Cannabis Access political action committee (PAC) to gather the 2,377 Camas voter signatures needed to place the issue on the November general election ballot.
“We’ve been kind of sitting back a little, waiting and trying to work with the city council,” Bean said. “We have three other stores (in Vancouver, Tacoma and Wenatchee), so we were pretty busy and (the Camas license) wasn’t a high priority for us. But this year, with the big election, it seemed like the year to jump on this.”
A Camas native who now lives in Vancouver, Pitchford became involved in cannabis-legalization activism in 2008, after surviving a violent home invasion linked to the illicit marijuana trade. Home invaders mistook the home Pitchford, then a 19-year-old Clark College student, shared with roommates as being the site of an illegal stash of marijuana.
“Masked gang members held me hostage,” Pitchford said of the incident that led her into cannabis activism. “Afterward, I started thinking about the reasons why cannabis was illegal and about the people involved in violent crimes connected to the illicit cannabis market.”
Pitchford participated in early efforts to legalize cannabis in Washington state, and said she has seen a shift in people’s perception of marijuana since Washington voters approved Initiative 502, a measure that decriminalized recreational marijuana, in November 2012.
“People have been able to see what it looks like to go into a cannabis store, to see that these shops are a functional part of the community,” Pitchford said. “There is less stigma.”
Rachel Bean agreed.
“People have become much more open to the idea of retail cannabis,” she said. “I think things have changed drastically since 2012, when legalization was passed, and even more since stores started opening in 2014.”
Bean said people’s attitudes toward cannabis also is shifting as health providers start to understand the medicinal benefits of the herb, and as more research is conducted on cannabis’ ability to help with pain management, cancer treatments and opioid addiction.
“Time and time again, I see people coming into the shop for the first time, including a lot of the elderly population, and they’re looking to try new things to help whatever ailment they might have. They have doctors telling them to try these new things,” Bean said. “(Cannabis) has become less taboo and more of an actual medicine that is helping people.”
Pitchford said the Camas for Cannabis Access PAC is training workers to collect signatures and help educate Camas voters about the legal cannabis industry and the benefits of having a cannabis retail shop within the city limits.
“This is really about access,” Pitchford said. “We know the support exists in Camas.”
Armed with statistics and research showing that legalizing marijuana has helped reduce marijuana use among teens, led to a reduction in violent crimes, provided living-wage jobs — New Vansterdam, Bean said, pays more than a living wage and provides a full range of benefits to its 20 employees — and helped bring millions of dollars in tax revenue to cities and counties that allow cannabis retailers, the Camas for Cannabis Access PAC is gearing up to attend local events and collect signatures to get the issue onto the November ballot.
“We want to be very respectful and help educate people,” Pitchford said. “A lot of the (signature collectors) have worked in the industry and are knowledgeable about cannabis and cannabis retail, so they will be able to answer questions people might have.”
The Beans, who live in Vancouver, said they hope Camas voters and officials will see them for who they are — professionals who run successful cannabis businesses in other Washington cities.
“I’d like people to know that we are a part of the community and that we respect the people and businesses around us,” Rachel Bean said. “We don’t want people to be concerned about who is holding this license.”
Already, the Beans have made a concession that they didn’t have to make — agreeing to not site the cannabis store in historic, downtown Camas if voters approve the initiative or if city council members decide to overturn their 2015 cannabis retail ban.
“That wasn’t something we had to do, but we had heard from council members that (not having a cannabis retailer) in the historic district was important to their constituents, so that was something we were more than happy to respect,” Rachel Bean said.
Pitchford said she hopes to get more information out to the Camas community about cannabis that will help dispel some of the fears and myths surrounding the drug. For instance, she said, although many people have said they worry that having a legal cannabis shop in Camas will lead to greater marijuana usage by children, the facts show otherwise.
“I’m the mother of two young children, so I understand why they would be concerned,” Pitchford said. “But when you look at the studies, including the Healthy Youth Survey that is done in Clark County, there is a decrease (in marijuana use among teens and children) and that is a direct result of legalizing cannabis. They just can’t get it anymore. The shops are very strict about that. Some of them even have scanners to make sure the IDs (for those over the age of 21) are real.”
During the 2015 hearing that led to the city’s ban on cannabis retailers, only two Camas officials — current Councilwoman Melissa Smith and former Camas Mayor Shannon Turk — voted against the ban.
“It will be a novelty at first for some, but as more people are aware of it I think it will de-stigmatize it,” Smith said in 2015, adding that she had researched cannabis several years prior, after receiving a doctor’s prescription for marijuana to treat pain.
Other council members who still serve as elected officials, including Councilman Don Chaney, spoke in favor of the ban in 2015.
“It’s not about the use or possession of marijuana, at least as far as I’m concerned,” Chaney said in 2015. “And it’s not about the personal qualities or business opportunities of the proponents. That’s not an issue here for me. The issue is, what’s it going to do to our community, and how does the fact that we do or do not (allow retail marijuana businesses) reflect the culture of our community?”
Washougal city officials also have banned cannabis retail operations, and both Camas and Washougal have bans in place on the growing and processing of retail marijuana within city limits. To learn more about the Camas for Cannabis Access group and its efforts, visit xray.fm/broadcasts/33110 and listen to XRAY FM’s interview with Rachel Bean and Pitchford. The group plans to launch a website soon and will have social media sites up and running within the next few weeks.
Marijuana legalization Support Soars, Two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization, according to two recent polls.
The overwhelming majority of Americans support marijuana legalization, according to two recent surveys from major polling organizations.
The newest poll, from the Pew Research Center, found that 67 percent of Americans now back marijuana legalization, up from 62 percent in 2018. Opposition to legalization also dropped to 32 percent, down from 34 percent last year.
Pew also asked respondents about what kind of legalization they back. About 59 percent said they want medical and recreational legalization, while 32 percent said they only want medical legalization. Only 8 percent said neither.
Pew found that even a majority — 55 percent — of Republicans support legalizing pot. About 78 percent of Democrats do as well.
At the same time, another recent poll by Gallup found 66 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, the same as Gallup found last year. Gallup also found that a majority of both Republicans and Democrats support legalization.
Marijuana legalization has had some big victories in the past few years. The first two states — Colorado and Washington — legalized in 2012. In the seven years since, nine more states and Washington, DC, have legalized, with Illinois’ legislature most recently becoming the first legislature to legalize commercial sales of marijuana for recreational uses.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates have increasingly thrown their support behind legalization. With the exception of Joe Biden, the higher-polling Democrats back it.
Supporters of legalization argue that it eliminates the harms of marijuana prohibition: the hundreds of thousands of arrests around the US, the racial disparities behind those arrests, and the billions of dollars that flow from the black market for illicit marijuana to drug cartels that then use the money for violent operations around the world. All of this, legalization advocates say, will outweigh any of the potential downsides — such as increased cannabis use — that might come with legalization.
Opponents, however, claim that legalization will enable a huge marijuana industry that will market the drug irresponsibly. They point to America’s experiences with the alcohol and tobacco industries in particular, which have built their financial empires in large part on some of the heaviest consumers of their products. This could result in more people using pot, even if it leads to negative health consequences.
JAMA Pediatrics September 2019 Volume 173, Number 9
Legalization And Underage Use, Legalizing marijuana is associated with a decline in youth cannabis consumption, according to a new study in a journal published by the American Medical Association.
The research, which analyzed federal data on marijuana use trends among 1.4 million high school students from 1993 to 2017, showed that self-reported past-month youth cannabis use declined by an average of eight percent in states that legalized recreational marijuana. Full article attached as hyperlink requires subscription.
A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that youth marijuana use in Washington State’s largest county declined after cannabis was legalized for adults, and noted that the results are “consistent with trends reported in Colorado and Oregon,” which also legalized.
“First-pass evidence is provided that the legalization of the cannabis market across US states is inducing a crime drop. We exploit the staggered legalization of recreational marijuana enacted by the adjacent states of Washington (end of 2012) and Oregon (end of 2014). Combining county-level difference-in-differences and spatial regression discontinuity designs, we find that the policy caused a significant reduction in rapes and property crimes on the Washington side of the border in 2013-2014 relative to the Oregon side and relative to the pre-legalization years 2010-2012. The legalization also increased consumption of marijuana and reduced consumption of other drugs and both ordinary and binge alcohol. … The concern that legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes may increase crime occupies a prominent position in the public debate about drugs. Our analysis suggests that such a concern is not justified.”
“Our models show no negative effects of legalization and, instead, indicate that crime clearance rates for at least some types of crime are increasing faster in states that legalized than in those that did not. … [T]he current evidence suggests that legalization produced some demonstrable and persistent benefit in clearance rates, benefits we believe are associated with the marijuana legalization proponents’ prediction that legalization would positively influence police performance.”
“The objective of this study is to investigate whether a particular element of MMLs, namely allowance for dispensaries, affects local crime and other indicators of marijuana misuse. We find no evidence that ordinances allowing for marijuana dispensaries lead to an increase in crime. In fact, we see some evidence of a reduction in property crime. … Our study appears to reinforce the conclusions from other studies that fail to find an increase in the type of crime predicted by law enforcement. We find no effects on burglary, robberies, or assaults, which are the types of crimes one would expect if dispensaries were prime targets as a result of their holding large amounts of cash. … Our findings indicate that policymakers should be careful in how they regulate the presence of dispensaries, while not jumping to the conclusion that dispensaries are clearly crime generating hot-spots. … Our findings suggest that it is possible to regulate these markets and find a common ground between safety and access to medical marijuana.”
“[T]he introduction of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) leads to a decrease in violent crime in states that border Mexico. The reduction in crime is strongest for counties close to the border (less than 350 kilometres) and for crimes that relate to drug trafficking. In addition, we find that MMLs in inland states lead to a reduction in crime in the nearest border state. Our results are consistent with the theory that decriminalisation of the production and distribution of marijuana leads to a reduction in violent crime in markets that are traditionally controlled by Mexican drug trafficking organizations.”
“This paper studies the effects of marijuana legalization on neighborhood crime and documents the patterns in retail dispensary locations over time using detailed micro-level data from Denver, Colorado. … The results imply that an additional dispensary in a neighborhood leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19 percent decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period. … Overall, our results suggest that dispensaries cause an overall reduction in crime in neighborhoods, with no evidence of spillovers to surrounding neighborhoods. … Our results are consistent with theories that predict that marijuana legalization will displace illicit criminal organizations and decrease crime through changes in security behaviors or substitution toward more harmful substances. … Lastly, there is no evidence that increased marijuana use itself results in additional crime.”
“Tobacco shops, medical marijuana dispensaries (MMD), and off-sale alcohol outlets are legal and prevalent in South Los Angeles, California-a high-crime, low-income urban community of color. This research is the first to explore the geographic associations between these three legal drug outlets with surrounding crime and violence in a large low-income urban community of color. … Results indicated that mean property and violent crime rates within 100-foot buffers of tobacco shops and alcohol outlets-but not MMDs-substantially exceeded community-wide mean crime rates and rates around grocery/convenience stores (i.e., comparison properties licensed to sell both alcohol and tobacco).”