Teen Cannabis Use at 22-Year Low

A new federal report has found that cannabis consumption among teens in the U.S. dropped to a 22-year low in 2016.

The rates of marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States have dropped to their lowest level in 22 years, according to a new federal survey.

Published online earlier this month, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 6.5 percent of adolescents used marijuana on a monthly basis in 2016. The last time the rate of monthly cannabis use among teens was that low was 1994.

The report, prepared by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found that teen cannabis use has continued to fall every year since 2014, when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to sell legal adult use marijuana.

The survey’s findings are the latest in a growing body of evidence that legalizing medical and adult use marijuana does not lead to an increase in use among adolescents, despite the common concerns raised by legalization opponents that the loosening of policies sends the wrong message to teens. A study published this summer found that cannabis use among adolescents has dropped significantly as more states have passed marijuana measures. Earlier this month, an analysis found that teen marijuana use has slightly decreased since Washington legalized adult use cannabis.

“Critics of legalization worry about the message being sent to youth by marijuana policy reform efforts, but the real message is that marijuana should only be used by responsible adults, and it seems to be sinking in,” said Morgan Fox, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. “Regulating marijuana for adults reinforces that message and creates effective mechanisms for making it more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana.”

The data also indicated that the rate of past month alcohol use among teens ages 12 to 17 has steadily decreased. The percentage of adolescents who were current alcohol users was 9.2 percent in 2016, down from 17.6 percent in 2002.

For adults in the U.S., the rate of past-month marijuana use is up and rate of alcohol use is down. The age group that saw the biggest drop in alcohol consumption was adults ages 18-25. The group saw past-month alcohol use drop from 59.6 percent in 2014 to 57.1 percent in 2016. That same 18-25 age group was found to consume the most cannabis. In 2016, 20.8 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 used cannabis at least monthly, the highest number since 1985. Among adults ages 26 to 34, 14.5 percent used cannabis monthly.

“Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” added Fox, “and regulation gives adults the legal option to choose the safer substance.”

Nationwide, over 60 percent of American adults support the legalization of recreational marijuana, according to polls conducted earlier this year by CBS News and Quinnipiac University.

The full report, “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health,” is accessible through SAMHSA.

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