Teen Cannabis Use in 2022 has not risen

Liz Filmer
31 Dec 2022

Even as more U.S. states legalised cannabis, teen cannabis use has remained stable in 2022, according to a recent federally funded Survey.

Experts had primarily linked an earlier significant 2020 to 2021 drop in illegal substance use among youth to the fact that the pandemic reduced social interactions for many young people. The expectation was that there would be a resurgence once renewed socialisation was in full effect—but this appears to have not been the case.

A total of 6.0% of eighth graders, 15.0% of 10th graders, and 20.6% of 12th graders reported having vaped cannabis within the last 12 months, reflecting a stable trend at the pre-pandemic level and a slight increase in use among 10th graders. However, reported use is still significantly below pre-pandemic levels.

 MTF has been analysing youth substance use trends for almost 50 years and is one of the best and most convenient tools to monitor and understand substance use among young people over time.

 Cigarettes, vaping, alcohol use and consumption of other illegal substances also remained generally stable across most ages. There were, however, some exceptions. For example, alcohol use by 12th graders returned to pre-pandemic levels, along with the consumption of opioids other than heroin.

The overall consistency of the findings bucks the increasingly debunked argument from prohibitionists that legalisation would increase underage use.

While it might be surprising that young cannabis use didn’t increase after lifting pandemic restrictions. The overall finding that teen consumption is stable is consistent with other studies.

Earlier this year, another published NIDA-funded study found that state-level cannabis legalisation is not associated with heightened youth use.

The study showed that teens who spent more of their adolescence under legalisation were neither more nor less likely to have tried cannabis at age 15 than teens who had lived with legalisation a little or at all.

Meanwhile, adolescent cannabis use in Colorado fell considerably in 2021, according to the latest biennial state survey published in June. Pro-canna campaigners have long argued that providing regulated access to cannabis at dispensaries with provisions to check ID, for example, would reduce the risk of adolescent consumption.

A recent study from California discovered that there was 100% compliance with the ID policy, keeping underage customers from buying weed directly from licensed outlets.”

Further still, an investigation published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2021 identified that passing legalisation has an overall influence on adolescent cannabis use that is “statistically zero.”

Another 2020 Colorado study revealed that state-wide youth cannabis consumption had not significantly changed since legalisation in 2012. However, consumption methods are becoming more diverse.

A representative for the National Drug Control Policy’s National Marijuana Initiative admitted in 2020 that youth consumption of cannabis “is going down” in legalised states even if “we don’t understand why.”

Liz Filmer