How Marijuana Legalization Really Affects The Number Of Teens Smoking Pot

A lot of horror stories about marijuana and youths exist, but new data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment busts at least one of them: no, marijuana legalization doesn’t equate higher rates of teen smoking. Recreational marijuana use became legal for adults 21 and over in Colorado back in 2012. Prior to 2012, in 2009 about 25 percent of Colorado teens reportedly used marijuana. Compare that to a slightly smaller 21 percent of Colorado youths in 2015, post-legalization.

“The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally,” the Colorado health department said in a statement issued to the public Monday.

Just as legal abortion doesn’t inspire women to get out there and get pregnant for the great thrill that is having an abortion just because they can, apparently legalizing marijuana doesn’t magically send teens (who are underage and can’t actually legally smoke it in the state) to their local dealer. Granted, the data could be skewed in that teens might be too afraid of consequences to be completely honest, but I don’t see why more teens would lie about this in 2015 than in 2009. Hopefully, this is comforting to concerned parents around the country as the recreational marijuana legalization movement seems to grow stronger by the day, reaching the Nov. 8 ballots of several states including California.

Cannabis black board
CREDIT: rkankaro/iStock

It’s worth noting that while it’s a scientifically disproven myth that marijuana completely and utterly wrecks one’s brain, the drug can have some detrimental effects on the still-developing brains of minors. Additionally, younger marijuana users are more likely to become addicted to the drug, and teens are at higher risk of several mental and physical health problems later in life.

But, that doesn’t mean warnings about the drug for individuals over 21 haven’t been greatly exaggerated as a means to use the public’s paranoia to justify the racially charged War on Drugs. And it certainly doesn’t mean cannabis doesn’t have a host of health benefits worth taking note of. These benefits range from the drug’s ability to kill cancer cells and ease seizures and paralysis to its role in lowering body mass index and helping women have orgasms.

Additionally, the retail marijuana industry has been making significant gains recently with sales projected to reach $4.5 billion this year. Apart from creating jobs by employing roughly 100,000 Americans according to some estimates, a 10 percent sales tax and additional 15 percent excise tax on recreational pot in Colorado raised $44 million in 2014 and $66 million by 2015.

Compare that to the literal trillions that have been poured into arresting and imprisoning countless Americans for the great and terrible crime of owning a plant, all in the name of legally persecuting “black people” and “the antiwar left” back in the ’70s, according to a 22 year old interview with top a top Nixon aide.

All things considered, probably the only somewhat valid argument against legalization of recreational marijuana might have been to make it harder for teens to get their hands on it. But frankly, the same could be said of alcohol and tobacco, both of which continue to claim innumerable lives, while I have yet to hear of death by pot. Following this data released by the state of Colorado (the guinea pig state when it comes to all things pot), legalizing the drug clearly doesn’t affect them that much, anyway. If the drop from 25 to 21 percent of teens smoking is at all related to recreational legalization for adults, you’d think this would be something parents would get behind.