Go Figure: As Adult Pot Use Increases, Teen Use Declines

Once gain the anti-legalization naysayers have been proved wrong. One of the federal government’s first broad statistical review of marijuana use among various age groups following several states’ legalization of non-medical adult use of cannabis has identified 14-year highs in consumption by adults — and a 14-year low in use by children ages 12-17.


Fewer young people identify as current users of cannabis today as compared to 2002, according to national survey data released last week by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Apparently, modern teens just say “wait until I’m 21” before smoking a joint. This is important because of recent findings that the human endocannabinoid system does not fully mature until about age 16, so waiting until adulthood reduces any possible risks from consumption.

National survey on drug use

The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report finds that 6.5 percent of respondents between the ages of 12 and 17 report having consumed cannabis within the past 30 days – a decrease of 21 percent since 2002 and the lowest percentage reported by the survey in 20 years. Adolescents’ use of alcohol and tobacco also declined significantly during this same period.

In all, about 24 million Americans over the age of 12 – roughly nine percent of the population surveyed – admitted to using marijuana in the past month.

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The findings are similar to those compiled by the University of Michigan which also reports long-term declines in young people’s marijuana use, which have fallen steadily nationwide since 1996.

Cannabis replacing alcohol, cigarette use

The new SAMHSA data acknowledges an increase in the percentage of respondents ages 18 or older who report using cannabis, a trend that has similarly been identified in other national surveys.

However, again upending claims that legalizing cannabis “just adds another drug” to social repast, the federal survey found that rates of alcohol abuse have been steadily declining for over a decade among this same age group. Tobacco use has also continued its long-term overall decline but with a slight uptick among adults.

Rates of problematic cannabis use by those over the age of 18 have largely held steady since 2002, and have fallen substantially among adolescents.

Almost 21 percent of adults aged 18-25 reported that they had used marijuana in the past month – a full percentage point increase over the 2015 rate. Seniors were the fastest growing demographic of cannabis consumers.

Just over seven percent of adults age 26 or older admitted to using pot. About 57 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds acknowledged drinking alcohol in the past month, another 14-year low. The drinking rate for adults age 26 and up was about 55 percent, consistent with data from last decade or so.

Adult use still penalized, skewing statistics

The number of people who admitted to marijuana use disorder – which the survey defines as using at least six times in the last 12 months and other criteria such as losing your job, increased dependence and so on – remained steady at about 4 million people over the age of 12.

However, since even legal marijuana use can result in loss of a job and contact with police, that definition and the data used to support it are defective. Also, daily use is considered as “dependence,” despite the fact that it is actually a common practice that does not reflect acual dependence, only a prejudiced interpretation of what daily use represents.

Since the reported number of incidents of job discrimination, etc., has not gone up — despite the increase in adult cannabis use — the data actually suggests that fewer people meet that criteria.

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