California’s Cannabis Legalisation Leads To Increase In Youth Use

By February 16, 2021 Media Release

Media Release 17 February 2021
A new study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has found that youth who live in California may be more likely to use cannabis since the drug was legalised in 2016. The study looked at data from more than three million 7th, 9th, and 11th graders (years 8, 10 and 12 respectively in New Zealand) and found significant increases in lifetime and past-month marijuana use among almost all demographics.

Of concern was relatively greater increases in the prevalence of cannabis use among younger adolescents (7th graders) relative to 9th and 11th graders, among females versus males, among non-Hispanic versus Hispanic youth, and among Whites versus youth in other racial groups. According to the researchers, there were greater increases in marijuana use prevalence among youth in ‘low-risk’ groups, which is concerning.

The researchers warn that the greater increases in these normally low-risk groups may be attributed to marijuana use becoming more normative due to legalisation, and that recreational marijuana legalisation may present increased opportunities for adolescents to obtain marijuana and that the increasing availability of non-smoking products such as edibles may prove appealing as well.

In December, US state-level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the most authoritative study on drug use conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), found significant increases in youth cannabis use in several recently legalised marijuana states versus last year. At the same time, mental illness indicators worsened across the country while alcohol, cocaine, and tobacco use dropped, especially among young people.

And earlier in September, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released the 2019 Annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the most comprehensive survey on drug use. One of the disturbing findings was that some 699,000 youth aged 12-17 have an addiction to marijuana in 2019 – representing 187,000 new youth with a Cannabis Use Disorder in 2019 versus 2018. Overall, more than 4.8 million people aged 12 or older reported Marijuana Use Disorder in 2019, up from 4.4 million in 2018.

“This data should put to rest the wild claims by drug advocates in New Zealand that somehow – and miraculously – youth use of drugs is going to decline if we legalise cannabis. It is evident to everyone with both eyes open that New Zealand dodged a bullet by voting no in the recent referendum,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

The good news is that in New Zealand, teen use is dropping. In 2019, only 23% of high school students reported having ever using marijuana in their lifetime, dropping from 38% in 2001.