Study: Changes In State Marijuana Laws Not Associated With Greater Acceptance By Young People

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

7 thoughts

  1. This seems like a bad thing. Young people shape the policies of the future, and if their approval of marijuana is declining then the future of marijuana laws may be bleak. How can their approval be down when we have made such great strides in educating people about the relative harmlessness of the plant?

  2. Not really a bad thing. A lot of rebellious youths only did it because they thought it was illegal and against authority.

    I expect the statistics represent the herb going back to its natural state of being an everyday occurance and no longer being a contriversial hobby.

    Now that everyone is doing it, the tough kids are all moving on to something less mainstream.

  3. This is just the numbers.

    I couldn’t find any mention as to possible causes. I was trying to find out if there were mentions of specific negatives such as explosions from people making their own concentrates from butane, synthetic marijuana (K2, Spice, whatever other names) as a guilt by association. Maybe if there are no more explosions making the news the numbers would go in favor of legalization.

    The synthetic marijuana problem is the government’s own making. By prohibiting cannabis and fueling the drug testing industry people who enjoy cannabis but don’t want to get nailed on a piss test to get a job or keep a job are just looking for the effects of cannabis without the downside of testing positive.

    When you see newspaper reports in small town America about unconscious people who seem pissblind drunk but haven’t had any alcohol there’s no doubt that cannabis prohibitions absolutely has to go, and the sooner the better.

    I certainly hope that people who don’t use cannabis and are unfamiliar with cannabis do NOT think that these bizarre examples in the article are what cannabis does. I’ve never heard of people under the effects of cannabis, people who got high on cannabis being passed out standing up or having vomited now passed out. Not is cannabis only.

  4. @Gweedo. Support isn’t declining, just plateauing. Use is declining but, if anything, that is a good thing as the study was conducted on 12-17 year olds. Besides, there ARE risks to using marijuana. Sure, free agency is incredibly important, marijuana is safer than 99.9% of the prescription drugs out there and the war on pot destroys lives. Those don’t make it risk free though, just significantly less risky. Besides, it would be legal tomorrow everywhere if only 12-17 year olds voted.

  5. With the truth available without personal experimentation, america’s youth are intelligent enough to figure out and use the truth over governmental propaganda. Most of use had to learn through personal experience because what you could see did not match what was being promoted by authorities.

  6. As the controversy over cannabis increased in recent years, a flood of articles on the subject were headed by guess what– a picture of a Joint, or someone smoking a Joint. “To children whose parents followed advice to keep them ignorant about cannabis, every Joint and every picture of a Joint is $igarette advertising.”

    The good news (maybe, what do I know?) is that children are increasingly turned off by all that decades-old Hot Burning Overdose Monoxide hatefearteasing– and when they learn that cannabis can be VAPORIZED dirt cheap with a 25-mg-capacity flexdrawtube one-hitter they will find out in good time about the 99.9% safer part (thanks Derek!).

  7. I remember sitting at the dinner table of a doctor and criminal attorney in New Jersey way back in 1995 talking about whether teenagers would be less interested in marijuana if it were legal. I said, (then 17 myself) if it were recognized primarily as medicine before a prohibited form of recreation, yes. Any child is born genetically programmed to find what their parents are hiding.

    That’s what cabinet locks are for.
    And when they’re teenagers? Get a gun safe.
    (Little bastards aren’t getting MY stash without some yard work…)

    Besides, tell a teenager “let’s go smoke some weed behind the bleachers,” you sound like a rebel. But tell them “let ‘s go self-medicate with our preferred medicine…” when there are little to no legal or parental repercussions or punishments then the thrill becomes a just a little less glamorous.

    By the time we turn 18 many of are becoming or have already become sexually active, our exercise routines, work and/or study schedules are flipped upside down, and our diets are about to suffer heavily. In other words, we are about to become as cannabinoid deficient as we’ll ever be, and marijuana, while perhaps only recreational at first, will quickly become truly nourishing and medically viable as we set out on our own in life and learn to manage stress, pain, responsibilities and how to bake marijuana brownies while your roommate that doesn’t smoke weed is sleeping. (It stinks up the house and wastes a lot of weed… Invest in a good vaporizer and save some money for the rent all you 18 year olds…)

    Still it must be painful for prohibitionists to read these studies while at the same time studies from pharmaceutical opiate addictions are revealing a pandemic throughout American society. Our veterans are being poisoned and continue to commit suicide at unprecedented rates under opiates they helped secure in Afghanistan… While Dr.Sisley’s FDA approval for marijuana to treat PTSD gains ground… I wonder how that affects a young intelligent teenaged mind?

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