DARE Programs and fear-mongering didn’t stop millennials from smoking a pre-rolled cone during their high school days. There’s an argument to be made that it did the opposite. Activists have emphasized the need for education and understanding; to teach kids about cannabis as medicine for adults rather than an illicit substance.
The recent years of effectively challenging cannabis prohibition still raise concerns. Some parents feel that a legal market means that underage smoking will increase. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), cannabis consumption among youth has remained the same as it was a decade ago. NCES scoured the 10 years of data between 2009 to 2019 of high school student surveys. They concluded that there’s “no measurable difference” in the percentage of youth between grades 9 and 12 who consumed cannabis at least once, within the past 30 days, Marijuana Moment reports.
What’s even more notable about this study is that it completely debunks theories of more underage people consuming cannabis. The data, which comes from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, indicated that access has remained relatively the same, even with legalization. There were no major changes in the amount of youth who’ve been offered, sold, or given drugs on school property.
Colorado, for instance, formally legalized cannabis and opened the market in 2014. In 2009, when no recreational dispensaries were open, 21% of students reported using cannabis in the past 30 days. Once the legal markets opened up, it was only 22% of adolescents admitted to using cannabis. 2011 had the highest percentage of 30-day reported usage among high school students before any dispensaries existed.
Though these issues have been at the center of pushback among those against legalization, activists insist that the need for a regulated market is more effective than prohibition. Regulating cannabis, similar to liquor and cigarettes, allows adults to be able to purchase cannabis legally while restricting minors from gaining access.