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Underage cannabis consumption in a decline

For years cannabis detractors cited unsubstantiated or flawed studies and reports showing a relationship between legalization and an uptick in societal ills. They were wrong.

Since legalization in Colorado, Cannabis has been blamed for everything, from an uptick in persons experiencing homelessness to an increase in crime. Despite the cannabis industry’s skepticism over unsubstantiated claims and “reports,” for the first few years, we had little data to prove the truth. 

More than seven years after legalization, consumers in Colorado (and beyond) finally have an answer. And we have a rebuttal to people like Bill O’Reilly, who, on The O’Reilly Factor, in 2014, aired a segment called “Stoned Homeless in Colorado,” in which he claimed Colorado neighborhoods had transformed into skid rows because of legal cannabis. 

Today’s reports show that cannabis doesn’t increase violent crime, can’t be tied directly to an uptick in persons experiencing homelessness, and underage cannabis consumption hasn’t risen post-legalization – to the contrary teen consumption is in decline.

Cannabis and Teens: A Rocky Relationship

A 2019 study suggests that cannabis legalization in the U.S. doesn’t increase consumption among teens, and is instead, having a cooling effect. Researchers examined survey data collected from 1.4 million adolescents between 1993 and 2017 to see how consumption compares between states where cannabis is legal and where prohibition continues. 

During the research period, 27 states, along with Washington, D.C., legalized medical cannabis, and seven states legalized marijuana for recreational consumption. 

The researchers found that medical cannabis laws had no impact on underage consumption. In states where recreational cannabis is legal, they found between an 8 and 9 percent reduction in teen consumption. 

This information flies in the face of cannabis prohibitionists who argue that consumption among America’s youth increases with legalization. The recent round of studies shows what truly happens when cannabis is legal and further debunks the longstanding myths surrounding our favorite plant. 

“Teens are our go-to demographic whenever we want to make something scary or edgy sounding, which is exactly why we rely on them to tell us what’s cool. However, a new study suggests modern teens are lame as hell. When opponents argue against the legalization of cannabis, they always mention how it’s a gateway drug for teens that will surely doom them to a life of harder addictions and substance abuse issues. Well, a new study reveals that those people are worried about the wrong age group.”—Sidni West, Boulder Weekly 

Why is underage cannabis consumption in decline?

One possible explanation for the decline in underage consumption is the difficulty of purchasing cannabis through black market channels. As drug dealers are replaced by legally operating licensed dispensaries, it’s harder for teens to get their hands on weed. 

“It may actually be more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age. Selling to minors becomes a relatively more risky proposition after the passage of these laws.” – Mark Anderson, associate professor in agricultural economics, Montana State University

Another possible explanation for the decline in underage consumption is the conversations parents are having with their kids. More parents are openly discussing cannabis, just like they would alcohol or sex. And as we’ve long known, open and transparent conversations lead to better decision making among teens.  

Lightshade is committed to breaking the stigma and doing good in the community. 

As a company, we work to dispel the longstanding myths surrounding cannabis. Our CSR program addresses the stigma head-on by showing the good our industry does in the community through volunteering hours, financial commitments, and outspoken support for the less-fortunate communities and people in Denver and its surrounding areas. 

Regardless of what the opposition claims, as our industry matures and we gather research and data that inform the truth, we know the potential of this long misunderstood plant to do good. 

Click here to learn more about Lightshade’s Cannabis Social Responsibility program and consider getting involved in your community.