It would be wrong to state that marijuana legalization causes a drop in teenage use, due to a lack of rigorous scientific studies on the matter. A coloration is developing, however. According to a new report from Statistics Canada, teenage use of cannabis has declined following adult-use legalization in the country.
In ending prohibition, the Canadian government wanted to ensure they were creating a system where cannabis couldn’t easily end up in youth’s hands. Some took the idea and ran with it to hysterical levels — one conservative member of parliament asserted marijuana was “just as deadly” as fentanyl for children. Statistics Canada reported the rate of marijuana consumption between ages 15-17 was 19.8% in 2018. That figure dropped to 10.4% in 2019.
Marijuana consumption rose from just above 15% to almost 17% for Canadians age 15 and older in the same time span. In total, 5.1 million Canadians reported using the plant last year. The high consumption occurred in eastern provinces, with 26% of Nova Scotia residents using marijuana and the lowest was 12% in Quebec, where home growing marijuana and edibles are banned.
To be fair, the Statistic Canada report is an imperfect representation.
“Information from the surveys was self-reported and has not been verified or validated,” the report reads. “Changes over time in respondents’ willingness to admit drug use, in their definition of what constitutes drug use, and in the perceived or real risk of legal consequences could neither be controlled nor detected, but could affect results.”
Still, the results add to a growing body of evidence of how marijuana legalization could impact adolescent use. Washington state and Denver saw declining rates of teenage marijuana use following legalization. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics last year went one step further and suggested that legalization could discourage adolescent use.
“Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth,” researchers concluded. “Moreover, the estimates…showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes.”
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