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youth use

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 15, 2018

    State laws reducing minor marijuana possession offenses from criminal to civil violations (aka decriminalization) are associated with dramatic reductions in drug-related arrests, and are not linked to any uptick in youth cannabis use, according to data published by researchers at Washington University and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Investigators examined the associations between cannabis decriminalization and both arrests and youth cannabis use in five states that passed decriminalization measures between the years 2008 and 2014: Massachusetts (decriminalized in 2008), Connecticut (2011), Rhode Island (2013), Vermont (2013), and Maryland (2014). Data on cannabis use were obtained from state Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) surveys; arrest data were obtained from federal crime statistics.

    Authors reported: “Decriminalization of cannabis in five states between the years 2009 and 2014 was associated with large and immediate decreases in drug-related arrests for both youth and adults. … The sharp drop in arrest rates suggests that implementation of these policies likely changed police behavior as intended.”

    They further reported: “Decriminalization was not associated with increased cannabis use either in aggregate or in any of the five states analyzed separately, nor did we see any delayed effects in a lag analysis, which allowed for the possibility of a two-year (one period) delay in policy impact. In fact, the lag analysis suggested a potential protective effect of decriminalization.” In two of the five states assessed, Rhode Island and Vermont, researchers determined that the prevalence of youth cannabis use declined following the enactment of decriminalization.

    Investigators concluded: “[I]mplementation of cannabis decriminalization likely leads to a large decrease in the number of arrests among youth (as well as adults) and we see no evidence of increases in youth cannabis use. On the contrary, cannabis use rates declined after decriminalization, though further study is needed to determine if these associations are causal. These findings are consistent with the interpretation that decriminalization policies likely succeed with respect to their intended effects and that their short-term unintended consequences are minimal.”

    Thirteen states currently impose either partial or full decriminalization. Nine additional states have subsequently moved to fully legalize the use of marijuana by adults.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis decriminalization: A study of recent policy change in five states,” is available online here. Additional fact-sheets regarding the societal impacts of decriminalization policies are available from the NORML website here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 7, 2017

    no_marijuanaFewer young people today identify as current users of cannabis as compared to 2002, according to national survey data released today by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report finds that 6.5 percent of respondents between the ages of 12 and 17 report having consumed cannabis within the past 30 days – a decrease of 21 percent since 2002 and the lowest percentage reported by the survey in 20 years. Adolescents’ use of alcohol and tobacco also declined significantly during this same period.

    The findings are similar to those compiled by the University of Michigan which also reports long-term declines in young people’s marijuana use, which have fallen steadily nationwide since 1996.

    The new SAMHSA data acknowledges an increase in the percentage of respondents ages 18 or older who report using cannabis, a trend that has similarly been identified in other national surveys. By contrast, rates of alcohol abuse have been steadily declining for over a decade among this same age group. Rates of problematic cannabis use by those over the age of 18 have largely held steady since 2002, and have fallen substantially among adolescents.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 17, 2017

    arrestedOver half of all young people entered into drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system and this percentage is increasing, according to data published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.

    A team of researchers from Binghamton University in New York and the University of Iowa reviewed youth marijuana treatment admission data (TEDS-A) during the years 1995 to 2012.

    Investigators reported that youth admissions for cannabis rose 65 percent during the study period – from 52,894 annual admissions in 1995 to 87,528 in 2012. Admissions rose most precipitously among Latinos (an increase of 256 percent since 1995) and African American youth (an increase of 86 percent). Criminal justice system referrals rose 70 percent during this same period, and now account for 54 percent of all substance abuse admissions by young people.

    Among those in treatment, half exhibited little if any evidence of suffering from marijuana dependence. Specifically, 30 percent of all young people admitted into marijuana treatment since 2008 had no record of having consumed cannabis in the 30 days prior to their admittance. Another 20 percent of those entered into treatment had use cannabis three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission. Prior evaluations of TEDS data among adults have yielded similar results.

    “Our findings indicate that the severity of drug use involved in those admissions has decreased,” authors concluded. “This study highlights the importance of identifying youth in actual need of treatment services.”

    Since the late 1990s, both youth use of marijuana and the prevalence of so-called ‘cannabis use disorder’ by young people have declined significantly.

    An abstract of the study, “Trends in youth marijuana treatment admissions: Increasing admissions contrasted with decreasing drug involvement,” is online here. My commentary about the data, “Blowing the lid off the marijuana treatment racket,” appears on Alternet.org here.