The use of marijuana by younger adolescents is falling while their perceived disapproval of cannabis use is rising, according to data published this week in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
Investigators from the University of Texas at Austin evaluated trends in young people’s attitudes toward cannabis and their use of the substance during the years 2002 to 2013 – a time period where 14 states enacted laws legalizing the medical use of the plant, and two states approved its recreational use by adults. (Six states also enacted laws decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses during this time.) Analyses were based on self-reported measurements from a nationally representative sample of 105,903 younger adolescents (aged 12-14); 110,949 older adolescents (aged 15-17); and 221,976 young adults (aged 18-25).
Researchers reported that the proportion of adolescents age 12 to 14 who strongly disapproved of marijuana use rose significantly during this period. The percentage of 12 to 14-year-olds reporting having used marijuana during the past year fell significantly during this same time period.
Among youth age 15 to 17, past year cannabis use also fell significantly, while young people’s perception of marijuana remained largely unchanged.
“Our results may suggest that recent changes in public policy, including the decriminalization, medicalization, and legalization of marijuana in cities and states across the country, have not resulted in more use or greater approval of marijuana use among younger adolescents,” the study’s lead investigator said in a press release.
Young adults age 18 to 25, in contrast to their younger peers, were less likely in 2013 to disapprove of the use of cannabis. However, this change in attitude was not positively associated with significant rises in past year marijuana use by members of this age group, researchers reported.
Separate survey data reported by the University of Michigan has reported an overall decline over the past decade in the percentage of young people perceiving a “great risk” associated with the use of marijuana. However, this decline in perceived risk has not been accompanied by a parallel increase in cannabis use by young people.
The abstract of the study, “Trends in the disapproval and use of marijuana among adolescents and young adults in the United States: 2002-2013,” appears online here.