Man holding cannabis leaf with caption "legalize'.

Man holding cannabis leaf with caption "legalize'.

By Chris Bovey

Contrary to predictions, cannabis usage in Washington State has fallen since they legalised for adults according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Photo of marijuana dispensary in Washington State.

Legal weed store in Washington State, USA.

Data from the Washington Healthy Youth Surveys of 2010-2012 and 2014-2016 has been analysed by researchers who found that among eighth-graders fell from almost 10 per cent to just over 7 per cent. In 10th grade, recreational marijuana consumption declined from nearly 20 per cent to less than 18 per cent. There was no change among 12th graders, the study found.

The legal age for cannabis consumption in Washington State is 21. Along with Colorado, they were the first states to legalise pot in the USA following plebiscites where they voted for a taxed and regulated legal weed market.

The study is in line with other data from Colorado from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health which shows that a little more than 9 per cent of Colorado teens age 12 to 17 used marijuana monthly in 2015 and 2016, a statistically significant drop from the prior period. That’s the lowest rate of monthly marijuana use in the state since 2007 and 2008.

Teen use dropping in cannabis legal states

Brian Vicente of Vicente Sederberg LLC, one of the drafters of Colorado’s marijuana ballot measure, said in a statement: “Teen use appears to be dropping now that state and local authorities are overseeing the production and sale of marijuana.

“There are serious penalties for selling to minors, and regulated cannabis businesses are being vigilant in checking IDs.”

Numerous studies have come out which that legalisation doesn’t drive youngsters to consume cannabis. That includes a meta-analysis of 55 studies that found the “passage of [medical marijuana laws] has not increased cannabis use among teenagers during the periods after their passage that has been studied to date.”

The meta-analysis also looked at rates of cannabis use disorder in states that have ended prohibition. The assumption was that higher rates of marijuana consumption among adults would mean higher rates of cannabis use disorder. It turned out this was not the case:

“Despite the increase in the prevalence of adult cannabis use, the prevalence of cannabis use disorders among adults in the past year did not change (remaining at 1.5 per cent [from 2002 to 2004]). More surprisingly still, the prevalence of [cannabis use disorder] among adults who used cannabis in the past year declined from 14.8 per cent in 2002 to 11.0 per cent in 2014.”

The data from the USA is in line with our experience in Europe. In the UK, where consumers or suppliers of cannabis can face heavy fines or even prison time, cannabis consumption is high in under-18s than it is in the Netherlands. This is because it is sold in the nation’s famous cannabis shops who also face strict sanctions if they are caught selling to minors. First a heavy fine and a second time they get closed down, so none of them sells to minors, which is why they all ask for ID to anyone who appears to be 25 or younger who wishes to buy weed or hashish.

In the UK, often the only ID a dealer will ask for is a twenty-pound note, whereas if they attempt to buy alcohol or tobacco, young adults will be asked for age verification.

No link with cannabis consumption and brain damage in over 18s

Photo of two cannabis spliffs.

Studies show cannabis does not impact I.Q of adults.

Studies have shown that long-term pot smoking doesn’t appear to harm health, yet one study from New Zealand showed that heavy cannabis usage in teens could have an impact IQ. However, persistent users who only started when adult (older than 18 years) did not seem to experience the same IQ decline.

Other studies found cannabis use may not lead to cognitive decline at all. A large study of twins suggests family-related factors may contribute to both pot smoking and a drop in IQ.

Additionally, a British study found marijuana use by teenagers does not result in a lower IQ or worse exam results.

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children followed 2,612 children born in the Bristol area in 1991 and 1992.

Each child had their IQ tested at the ages of eight and again at 15 when they were also given a survey on cannabis use.

Exam results were also looked at as scientists analysed whether cannabis use had affected intellectual and educational performance, although the study did concede teenagers who regularly use cannabis, at least 50 times by the age of 15, may tend to do worse in an exam.

Lead researcher Claire Mokrysz, of University College London, told the Independent the findings suggested cannabis “may not have a detrimental effect on cognition”, once other related factors, including smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, had been taken into account.

A study, published in the journal Addiction, found that cannabis is less addictive than nicotine, with approximately 9 per cent of users becoming addicted compared to 32 per cent, but the risk of addiction is higher with teenagers, with one in six who regularly use it becoming dependent and one in ten adults.

Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project said: “Once again, federal survey data has debunked the myth that rolling back marijuana prohibition will result in increased rates of use among teens.

“It’s quite clear that our country does not need to arrest hundreds of thousands of adult marijuana consumers in order to prevent teens from using marijuana.”

Advocates for the legalisation of cannabis in the UK accept that an age limit should be applied for the purchase of recreational cannabis in a similar way that it is to alcohol and tobacco, which is 18-years-old in Great Britain.

Prohibitionists who oppose cannabis law reform warn that legalisation would send the wrong signals and encourage children to use it. Well, they already are consuming cannabis in the UK despite its illegal status. So, if we accept that heavy cannabis consumption might be detrimental to the developing brain, but not adults, then if you really care about the children you should look at the evidence from Colorado, Washington State and The Netherlands and advocate legalisation.

The prohibitionists are actually putting forward arguments for a legal taxed and regulated cannabis market, yet they are too obdurate to see it and choose to be moralising killjoys that do more harm than good.


Chris Bovey, writer and musician.

Chris Bovey is a businessman, writer, musician and practical joker. He lives in Devon with his partner, two children and cat.

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