Teens' historically low weed use is a pain in the ass for anti-pot crusaders

Teens' historically low weed use is a pain in the ass for anti-pot crusaders

VicesSeptember 08, 2017 By Brian Frederick

Teens do a lot of stupid shit. They text while driving, spend money on video games instead of financial growth options and actually say the words "fire" and "lulz" in human-to-human interaction. But what they're not doing is what's really pissing off anti-pot advocates right now, and that's avoiding weed. Like historically, even. According to new data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, teens from the ages of 12 to 17 are using less weed than they have in over 20 years.

So much for the reefer madness thing everyone was worried about if legalization were to happen. 

As The Washington Post reports, "Last year, 6.5 percent of adolescents used marijuana on a monthly basis. That represents a statistically significant drop from 2014, when the nation's first recreational marijuana shops opened in Washington state and Colorado." As it stands, 29 states (including Washington D.C.) have some form of legalized cannabis right now.

It goes on to say that while use amongst teens is on a declining trend, there has been a steady increase in use with adults — even more so with Baby Boomers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2002 to 2014, 55- to 64-year-olds garnered a 455 percent increase in cannabis use, 35 times more than 18- to 25-year-olds in the same time frame.

Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former White house drug policy advisor isn't buying it. In an email to Rooster Magazine, he points out the survey is taking a broad stroke of participants from all over the country and until research is broken down to a state level (i.e. where it's legal versus where it's not), the data is inconsistent with the dangers of use. 

"This is a national survey of folks in households nationwide," he says. "It tells us nothing about what is happening in legalized states. It does not tell us, for example, how marijuana rates are moving in Colorado and other legalized states. For that, we need the state estimates. And those estimates don't look good - CO is now the #1 state in the nation for youth pot use."

Which is partly true, depending on what studies you're pulling from. A quick Google search delivers all kinds of contradictory information about teen use in legalized states. Some it's up, others it's down. The reality is, there just isn't enough data to say one way or another considering pot's only been legal completely since 2014 in a few states — it takes years to gather viable statistics going one way or another. However, Sabet isn't worried so much about the new numbers on teen use as much as he is the other "troubling spots" in the survey — higher use of those 18 and over.

"Among those 18+ there's been a significant jump in the % of marijuana users who are unemployed vs last year; far more marijuana users are unemployed than employed" he states. "This has implications for America's role in the global economy - how can we compete with other countries if our young adults and older Americans are more stoned than they've been in recent memory?"

Scott Chipman, Southern California chair for Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana mimics Sabet's argument to the new study via email, in that he's also worried about state by state use more than a national scope. He feels like these statistics are more alarming than not, and that the nation is in for a world of hurt if legalization goes through federally one day.

"The pot that is being used has a much higher potency than the pot of just a few years ago and so the harms are much greater," says Chipman. "The age of introduction to pot is much lower than it was just a few years ago at about 12 years 4 months. Addiction rates are up, those arrested testing positive for marijuana is up, car crashes and deaths related to marijuana are up, the number of marijuana users who are unemployed is up. Babies testing positive at birth for THC is up and mothers breast feeding while using is up particularly in states like Colorado. These trends are going to impact our society for decades."

Justin*, a 15-year-old sophomore at a Denver-area high school (who owns a Denver Broncos fidget spinner and just bought a fresh pair of sick Chuck Taylors for the new school year) says weed users aren't much concern in his school, and are more or less looked down upon because it's not really a thing anymore. "It's easy to get," he says, "and kind of makes you slow and stupid. I know adults are allowed to use it, my parents do, but I'd rather be healthy and shoot ball than sit in a basement watching Twitch or something all smoked out."

He adds that anti-drug campaigns made by adults are pretty ineffective because "they're cheesy" and show they don't really understand what's going on at a teenager's level. 

Ninety-three and a half percent of his peers seem to agree with Justin, however, that weed's here and personal choice is the greater impetus for use. Despite anti-pot efforts, federal legalization, it seems, is full steam ahead.

[cover photo: IG @cannababekatie by Anthony Presley]