Legalization of pot has little effect on teen use

Giancarlo Lizarraga, Staff Writer

The recent legalization of recreational marijuana in California is worrisome for the drug’s opponents who expect the new legislation to promote its use among teenagers.

In relation to these predictions, the annual Monitoring the Future national study by the University of Michigan reports that while overall teenage use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco had greatly declined in 2016, marijuana usage still remains high among 12th-graders.

Data from the study shows that the surveyed 8th grade and 10th grade students are reported to have continually decreasing trends in regular marijuana use, but the number of high school senior users is increasing.

“Most people get really stressed when they’re in their senior year,” sophomore Alisa Iastre said. “They just want to relax and find any way to cope. That means drugs, marijuana and alcohol.”

Despite the statistics on marijuana usage, the use of other illicit drugs has been on a steady decline since the turn of the century. This may be because significantly more teenagers haven’t been seeing a great risk from using marijuana compared to other substances.

“You hear about people overdosing on stuff like hard drugs,” junior Catherine Morelli said. “I don’t think you can really overdose on [marijuana].”

While marijuana overdose is a rare occurrence, it rears in head mostly around young people who don’t realize the risk of high THC levels in the drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana edibles are often responsible for numerous emergency room visits for teens and preteens who don’t understand the delayed effects that the body feels from that form of the drug.

California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act already accounts for this danger by limiting the dosage of THC in edibles and requiring childproof packaging.

This legislation legalizes recreational pot for adults over the age of 21, but the public market for the drug will likely remain under lock and key until 2018. Marijuana still cannot be smoked in public and cannabis plants cannot be legally bought or sold.

“I know that a lot of people tended to smoke weed anyways and now that it’s legal it’s kind of just everywhere and it’s more accessible,” junior Miniya Brisbane said.

It would seem plausible that marijuana would become more accessible to teens after its legalization, but the same Michigan study reports a decline in youths saying the drug is “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain.

Overall, the use of marijuana has seen very little variation since 2012 when Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that since marijuana was legalized its use in high schools dropped from 22 percent to 21.2 percent which is slightly lower than the national average of 21.7 percent.

In Washington, the 2016 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey expressed similar results as marijuana use among teens remained steady and the perceived ease of obtaining marijuana also stayed relatively the same.

“I feel like [marijuana] being legal didn’t really change anything because people still did it anyway even if it was illegal,” Morelli said.