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Following the Wednesday release of a national survey on teen drug use, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) called on the agency to investigate whether regulating marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes could produce similar reductions in use among teens.
According to the annual Monitoring the Future national survey on drug use, the current use of alcohol and tobacco has dropped among teens in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. Current marijuana use increased slightly among 8th- and 10th-graders and decreased slightly among 12th-graders. Current use is defined as use within the past 30 days.
“The results suggest that regulating alcohol and cigarettes is successfully reducing teen use, whereas marijuana prohibition has been unsuccessful,” said MPP director of communications Mason Tvert. “At the very least, this data should inspire NIDA to examine the possibility that regulating marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes could be a more effective approach than the current system.”
Yesterday, MPP issued a release based on a preliminary summary of the survey results, in which it announced its expectation that marijuana use had not increased among teens. The full survey results show that marijuana use within thirty days of the survey has increased from 6.5% to 7% among 8th-graders and from 17% to 18% among 10th-graders. It has decreased from 22.9% to 22.7% among 12th-graders. Current alcohol use has decreased from 11% to 10.2% among 8th-graders, from 27.6% to 25.7% among 10th-graders, and from 41.5% to 39.2% among 12th-graders. Cigarette use in the past thirty days decreased from 4.9% to 4.5% among 8th-graders, from 10.8% to 9.1% among 10th-graders, and from 17.1% to 16.3% among 12th-graders.
“Those selling marijuana in the underground market are not asking for ID,” Tvert said. “By regulating marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes and enforcing similar age restrictions, we would very likely see a similar decrease in availability and use among teens.”
Colorado’s experience with regulating medical marijuana suggests that regulation might be reducing teen use. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey released in June 2012 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana use by Colorado high school students dropped 11% from 2009 to 2011, the time period in which the state and its localities began regulating medical marijuana. Nationwide, teen marijuana use increased 11% during that time period.