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Report States That Cannabis Legalization Has Not Increased Youth Consumption

A policy paper entitled, “Addressing Youth and Cannabis: Solutions to combat and prevent youth misuse through a federal regulatory system” was released by CPEAR on March 16, and reviews data regarding how youth cannabis consumption hasn’t increased since legalization began. The report was also presented during CPEAR’s roundtable event held on March 17, featuring Senator John Hickenlooper, CPEAR Co-Chair Greg Walden and more.

Andrew Freedman is the Executive Director at CPEAR. He stated that the report will be a tool for prevention in communities and a source of inspiration to legislators for enacting prevention regulations. “Over 100 million Americans live in a state with legalized, adult-use cannabis—but what we should consider is what that means for our nation’s youth,” said Freedman. “This research highlights how preventing youth from using cannabis requires local communities and stakeholders to be at the forefront of this effort. It further outlines the need for congressional action to build a federal cannabis framework rooted in data, correct the current patchwork of cannabis laws, and build preventative measures into place to protect America’s youth from cannabis misuse.”

One of the main topics that the report explores is that youth consumption either “decreases or remains flat in regulated markets.” In reviewing data on consumption of 8th, 10th and 12th graders, the results were fairly steady. “State legalization of cannabis has not, on average impacted the prevalence of cannabis use among adolescents,” the report states. “In other words, states with medical and/or adult use laws are not seeing larger increases in adolescent use relative to states where use remains illegal.” A Monitoring the Future graph shows a dramatic drop in consumption for 12th graders between 1975 and the 1990s (8th and 10th grade data was not collected at that time). These three grades saw a drop in 2020 due to a lack of access or availability to cannabis during the pandemic.

A combination of prevention strategies can also help reduce youth use. This report lists after-school programs that are school-based, as well as counselling opportunities and community initiatives. It also suggests digital intervention, which includes counseling, education, counseling, outreach, counseling, and online interventions. “The most successful public education campaign to date is the ‘Good to Know’ program that originated in Colorado, which provides evidence-based educational statements about laws and potential health effects of cannabis use in a judgement-free fashion,” the report shared. “A research study found that the campaign not only increased awareness, but significantly increased perceptions of risk associated with CUD, driving under the influence of cannabis, and negative cognitive outcomes associated with cannabis use.” It also proposes that an increase in youth-specific legislation would affect youth consumption rates, especially if more attention was paid to marketing and advertising.

The report stated, in addition, that youth access to cannabis would decrease if illegal cannabis sales were targeted. “The legal cannabis market increases the availability of high-potency products, which have been associated with an increased risk of psychosis and CUD for some. However, unlike the tobacco and alcohol industries, there remains a pervasive illicit cannabis market that can easily provide youth with access to cannabis,” the report reads. “Cannabis purchased illicitly is more likely to contain contaminants, including other illicit substances relative to products available in a regulated market. Therefore, increased vigilance of legal sales of high-potency products may best balance reducing risks of youth cannabis-related harms.”

The CPEAR was launched March 11th, 2021. It has received support from alcohol and tobacco companies such as Altria Client Services, Constellation Brands, Inc., and Molson Coors Beverage Company. Similar findings have been made in other studies on youth cannabis use, including one published in The Journal. Substance AbuseIn March 2021 Or another publication in American Journal of Public HealthIn August 2020.