Even as more U.S. states legalize cannabis, rates of current and lifetime cannabis use among U.S. high school students continue to decline, as recently released federal data shows.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), released last week, finds that teens’ use of all monitored substances – including cannabis, l alcohol and prescription drugs – has “linearly declined” over the past decade.
When it comes to cannabis, the federal study shows that high school students’ use tended to increase between 2009 and 2013, before legal cannabis dispensaries began to open in the first states that legalized, but ‘It’s been generally down ever since. The first cannabis legalization laws in the United States were approved by voters in 2012, and regulated retail began in 2014.
The latest data from the biennial survey shows that 15.8% of high school students said they had used cannabis at least once in the past 30 days in 2021, down from 21.7% in 2009 and significantly lower than the record high of 23 .4% reached in 2013.
Health authorities have been encouraged by this trend, although they have pointed out that social isolation policies resulting from the coronavirus pandemic have likely played a role in the extent of the decline in substance abuse among young people in the world. over the most recent two-year period measured.
“Substance use among youth has declined over the past decade, including during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says a CDC companion report. “However, substance use remains common among American high school students and it is important to continue to monitor it in the context of the changing market for alcoholic beverages and other drugs. »
“The expansion of tailored, evidence-based policies, programs and practices aimed at reducing the factors that contribute to the risk of substance use among adolescents and promoting the factors that protect against risk could help strengthen recent declines,” the report said.
In 2021, a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and published in theAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that state-level cannabis legalization is not associated with increased use among youth.
The study found that “youth who spent more of their adolescence under legalization were no more or less likely to have used cannabis by age 15 than adolescents who have spent little or no time under the legalization regime”.
Another federally-funded study by researchers at Michigan State University, published last summer in the journal PLOS One, found that “cannabis retail may be followed by an increase in the occurrence of cannabis use among older adults” in legal states, “but not among minors who cannot purchase cannabis products at a retail outlet.”
Another study released by Colorado authorities in 2020 showed that youth cannabis use in that state “has not changed significantly since legalization” in 2012, although consumption methods are diversifying.