Remember how shitty everything was during the Prohibition Era? Of course not. None of us were alive. But one could easily draw parallels to the ongoing battle for marijuana legalization that's currently making waves at every step of the American legal process. However, for staunch opponents of marijuana legalization, one talking point is repeated ad nauseam: What does widespread legalization do to prospective weed-smoking teens?
According to a Washington University School of Medicine study published Tuesday, that anti-legalization talking point may not hold water. "We were surprised to see substantial declines in marijuana use and abuse," Richard A. Grucza, PhD, an author of the study and an associate professor of psychiatry, said in a press release. "We don't know how legalization is affecting young marijuana users, but it could be that many kids with behavioral problems are more likely to get treatment earlier in childhood, making them less likely to turn to pot during adolescence. But whatever is happening with these behavioral issues, it seems to be outweighing any effects of marijuana decriminalization."
The survey, published by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, examined the reported marijuana habits of more than 216,000 teens between the ages 12-17 from 2002 to 2013. The rates of weed use among this group are falling despite the continued spread of legalization, while rates among adults have increased.
Specifically, the number of adolescents who reported having "problems related to marijuana," i.e. claims of dependency or trouble in the classroom, fell by 24 percent from 2002 to 2013. During that same period, the rate of teens who reported tapping into the universe of green magic in the previous 12 months dropped 10 percent.
So what gives? Do old people (i.e. anyone over the age of 17) just like weed more? Not exactly. One could more reasonably argue that the continued normalization of marijuana, once widely regarded (by those who don't actually use it) as the plant-based equivalent of Satan incarnate, has been slowly but surely taking its toll on the public perception of weed over the past decade.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is expected to announce their decision on reclassifying weed by July, potentially bumping the green stuff down from its current status as a Schedule I substance. For those who can't legally toke to the good news, just be patient. Your time will (hopefully) come.