Marijuana and Teens

The percentage of high school students who acknowledged having ever used cannabis or who say that they are current consumers has fallen significantly since 2011, according to data provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to a new CDC report, the percentage of high schoolers who have ever tried marijuana fell 30 percent between 2011 and 2021. The percentage of students who self-identify as current marijuana consumers decreased by a similar percentage during the same time period.

Authors concluded: “This report documents that substance use prevalence among U.S. high school students had been declining for a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic. For the majority of substance use outcomes, prevalence further declined from 2019 to 2021, including for current alcohol use, marijuana use, and binge drinking and for lifetime alcohol use, marijuana use, cocaine use, and prescription opioid misuse.”

The CDC’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other federally funded national surveys documenting declining rates of cannabis use by young people during the time-period when nearly two dozen states legalized the adult-use marijuana market.

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano highlighted this decline in a recently syndicated op-ed, stating, “States’ real-world experience with marijuana legalization affirms that these policies can be implemented in a way that provides regulated access for adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse.”

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 it.

The full text of the latest CDC report, “Alcohol and Other Substance Use Before and During the COVID 19 Pandemic Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2021,” is online. Additional information regarding cannabis and youth use patterns is available from the NORML Fact Sheet, ‘Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.’ 

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