In a non-intuitive twist, it seems that pot legalization in marijuana has not contributed to a sharp increase in teen marijuana use. In fact, legalization might be contribuing to a drop in teen use:
Since the passage of HB10-1284, Colorado’s historical medical marijuana regulation legislation, current marijuana use among high school students in Colorado has dropped from 24.8% to 22.0% according to the Federal Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Assessment. You can view the 2011 report here and the 2009 report here. These findings are consistent with a recent report published by Professor Mark Anderson that shows no noticeable link between increased youth marijuana use and states legalizing medical marijuana. In fact, the reports show that marijuana use among teens in Colorado is slightly below the national average.
But the teen marijuana use situation in Colorado is just mirroring a downward trend across the nation for teen alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use:
Marijuana use? Down. Alcohol use? Way down. Cigarettes? Waaay down. Fewer than 15 percent of 12th-graders reported using cigarettes any time in the past month, down from well over 35 percent in the late 1990s. Monthly alcohol use dropped from nearly 55 percent of 12th-graders in 1992 to less than 40 percent in 2014. Even weed, which has been on a flatter trajectory since the 1990s than the other substances, is down year over year.
Which really puts a wrench in the whole “prohibition actually works” argument. And it pretty near destroys the “Keep pot illegal or every child in the nation will be smoking it all the time! It’s for the children!” argument.
In fact, I don’t know what proponents of prohibition have been studying to draw their conclusions. For one, prohibition has never actually worked in history. The war on drugs has ever been and ever will be a very expensive failure—not reducing use to any real degree, increasing the danger for casual users, giving power to criminal organizations, and creating communities where criminal behavior is more acceptable. When you think about Al Capone, ubiquitous speakeasies, and blindness-inducing moon shine, it sounds kind of like the alcohol prohibition was rather similar to the current pot prohibition.
Which would mean that ending prohibition is the best avenue. You know, for the children.