Teen Marijuana Use

The percentage of high school students who report regularly consuming cannabis has fallen steadily over the past decade, according to data provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A newly issued CDC publication, Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021, finds that the percentage of high-schoolers who report having used cannabis over the past 30 days fell from 23 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2021. The decline was more pronounced among males than females.

Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “These latest findings add to the growing body of scientific literature showing that legalization policies can be implemented in a manner that provides access for adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse. Furthermore, these findings stand in sharp contrast to the sensational claims often made by legalization opponents, claims that thus far have proven to be baseless.”

The latest CDC findings are consistent with those of numerous other federally funded national surveys documenting declining rates of cannabis use by young people during the same time that a growing number of states legalized the adult-use marijuana market. Since 2012, 21 states have legalized the use of cannabis products for those age 21 or older.

A previous CDC study, published in 2020, similarly reported that the percentage of high-schoolers who had ever used cannabis also declined over the better part of the past decade. Another 2020 study, this one published in in the Journal of Adolescent Health, “found no evidence that RML [recreational marijuana legalization] was associated with [an] increased likelihood or level of marijuana use among adolescents. Rather, among adolescents who reported any use of marijuana in the past month, the frequency of use declined by 16 percent after RML.”

In 2021, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, publicly acknowledged that the enactment of statewide laws regulating the adult-use cannabis market has not led to an increase in the percentage of young people experimenting with the substance.

Additional information regarding cannabis and teen use patterns is available from the NORML fact sheet, ‘Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.’ The full text of the latest CDC report is available online.

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