on June 21, 2016
Prohibitionists have run out of arguments against cannabis legalization.
While many had feared that regulating cannabis would lead to an increase in consumption among teens, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is showing us otherwise.
The CDC’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey has found that between 1995 and 2015 the percentage of high-schoolers reporting cannabis use dropped from 43 percent to 39 percent.
The survey also shows a decline in teens currently using cannabis (at least once in the past 30 days), dropping from 25 percent to 23 percent during the same period.
As Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, pointed out in a recent blog post, this decline in teen usage has come during a 20-year duration during which two dozen states enacted medical cannabis legislation while four states passed laws allowing adult-use.
Armentano also writes:
“The Youth Risk Behavior Survey results are consistent with those of numerous other studies – such as those here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here – finding that changes in cannabis’ legal status are not associated with increased use among adolescents.”
This echoes Portugal’s results after decriminalization
In 2001 Portugal decriminalized all drugs. Instead of treating drug use as a criminal matter they began to approach it as a public health issue. Get caught with something less than a 10-day drug supply and maybe you get hit with a small fine and possibly a drug treatment program.
Ever since Portugal began to approach drugs as a health issue instead of a moral issue, not only has drug use among young people gone down, but almost nobody dies from a drug overdose in Portugal. In fact, Portugal now has the second lowest drug-induced death rate in the European Union.
While death isn’t an issue with cannabis, it sure is with opioids, which are killing 78 Americans every day. The U.S. is also experiencing an increase in heroin use among men and women of all income levels, which the CDC has correlated with the opioid epidemic.
This is clearly a public issue. Obviously treating illicit drug use as criminal behavior is not working out so well for society, nor has it ever.
Does this mean that prohibition actually leads to an increase in cannabis use among teens?
Essentially, yes. The numbers are indeed showing us that cannabis prohibition only reinforces use among teens. This is in fact one of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s biggest arguments for regulation along with diverting billions of dollars away from organized crime.
The truth is prohibition has led to a lot of negative things, and solid numbers like this are just another indication of how much it has been hurting us.
It’s great to see the rates of cannabis use decline among young people – and I wouldn’t expect anything less as we replace misinformation with science-based education, create models of responsible use, and cultivate a much more mature, informed approach to all drugs.
And yet the concern with young people is just the tip of the iceberg when we consider the vast amount of societal damage created by the war on drugs.
Cannabis prohibition continues to ruin countless lives
As increasing numbers of people wake up to the fact that the war on drugs has been an unconstitutional dead end from the start, it’s equally important to emphasize that people are still suffering – that the war has yet to end.
The results both from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and from Portugal are just a few of many indications that Americans should feel completely confident in pursuing a radical shift in drug policy at the federal level.
Executing this shift, however, is not easy. Because prohibition continues to be safeguarded by the big businesses that profit from it, and it will take an overwhelming majority working together to uproot these vested interests.
The more we talk about cannabis, the more we come out green and the more we hold honest cannabis dialogues with the people in our lives, the faster we can dispel much of the misinformation that continues to grip millions of mindsets.
No more lies, no more misinformation, no more propaganda – no more stigma.
We have got to get curious about this plant and inspire others to get curious about it if we want to be that change this country so desperately needs.
Penetrating this 80-year-layer of mental conditioning comes down to each individual. Each one of us must continue taking the time to educate ourselves and engage others in evidence-based cannabis learning – and getting out there together to rock the vote and to encourage our public servants to act in our best interests and abide by that crucial evidence.
Are you in?