adult use marijuana

NIDA Director Reiterates Legalization Doesn't Lead To Increased Use Among Kids

NIDA Director Reiterates Legalization Doesn't Lead To Increased Use Among Kids

At a D.A.R.E.-sponsored panel discussion hosted by the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow affirmed reports that adolescent cannabis use is “stable.” Prohibitionists repeatedly argue that legalization leads to adolescent experimentation with cannabis.

Kevin Sabet, Smart Approaches to Marijuana President, countered that data on youth use had shown varying results in states that have legalized cannabis. 

Volkow conceded that there had been some discrepancies with consumption rates of edible cannabis products. But she added that federal data “have not been able to see large differences in terms of prevalence” of cannabis consumption in legal and non-legal states among young people.

According to Volkow, the effects are not significant, and the rate of marijuana use among teenagers, from burning joint papers to hitting the bong, has remained stable despite legalization. She did express some concerns about the limitations in data collection concerning dosages.

A recent federally funded survey found that illicit drug use by young people has dropped significantly. However, much of that decline could be attributed to restricted social interaction from coronavirus policies across the country. 

“Kids don’t have the opportunity to interact with others, and drug-taking at that stage is a peer pressure behavior,” said Volkow.

While Volkow does not recommend “liberalizing and making the drugs widely available, with no counter-messaging,” she did emphasize that criminalizing people over drugs is the wrong policy approach.

“Criminalization has created a system that allows structural racism to be implemented, you can control people, and that’s a horrible policy,” said Volkow.

While the SAM-hosted event did not touch specifically on psychedelics policy, Volkow mentioned that N.I.D.A. is “pleased” the Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced plans to increase the quota of psychedelic drugs for use in research. As increased attention is drawn to the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, researchers and regulators will need to keep up.

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