A federally conducted survey in the United States has shown that cannabis use in the 12-17 age group has fallen by close to 25%. The survey showed that in 2019 just under 4 million (3,947,000) 12-17 year olds across all 50 states of the USA had tried cannabis at some point in their lifetime, compared to just over 3 million (3,103,000) in 2020.
The survey is called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), and is conducted every year by a section of the US Department of Health and Human Services called the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The NSDUH measures data such as the use of; illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco and the misuse of prescription drugs. It also monitors mental health data that is connected with substance use and misuse, such as; substance use disorders, mental illness and mental health care.
Data is collected via an independent multistage area probability sample within each state and stratified at the state level. This means that the published figures are estimates based on the answers provided by the respondents.
The survey is normally conducted with a specially trained interviewer in a face-to-face interview, however, the 2020 survey was conducted online due to COVID restriction. Due to the change in methodology in 2020, therefore the SAMHSA has advised using caution when making comparisons with data from previous surveys.
As the survey is nationwide, it includes teenagers living in states where cannabis has been legalised for adult use. This is relevant to proponents of cannabis as campaigners against the relaxation of cannabis laws often cite an increase in teen use as a reason for their opposition to legalisation.
Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, a not-for-profit organisation in the USA that advocates for the reform of cannabis laws, told Marijuana Moment, “Changes in states’ marijuana policies have not led to any significant rise in cannabis use among young people. Overall, adult-use laws are working the way voters and politicians intended; licensed retailers check IDs and rarely are adult-use products diverted to the illicit marketplace. These findings ought to reassure lawmakers that cannabis access can be legally regulated in a manner that is safe, effective, and that does not inadvertently impact young people’s habits.”
Other interesting findings from the NSDUH include;
- In the past year, 2.8 million people initiated cannabis use in the USA
- 50 million people over the age of 12 in 2020 are estimated to have used cannabis, that’s 18% of the population
- The age group that reported the highest use of cannabis was the 18-25 year olds with 34.5% answering that they had used cannabis in the past year
- 16.3% of the age group 26 and over reported cannabis use in the past year
- That fell to 10.1% of 12-17 year olds reporting cannabis use in the past year
- In their lifetimes the survey shows that 50% of Americans have tried some sort of illicit drug
- 46% have tried cannabis in their lifetime
- 16% have tried some sort of hallucinogen
- 15% have tried cocaine at one point in their lifetime
The survey echoes other recent studies showing youth cannabis use does not increase after states enact legalisation for medical or recreational use. Analysis published recently by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that establishing regulated cannabis markets actually leads to lower use among adolescents.