* Opponents of cannabis legalization have repeatedly trotted out claims that legalization results in dramatically increased usage by children. Rep. Kelly Cassidy said once that “you see steady decreases in youth use if you do [legalization] right.” Politifact chose to fact check her…
Since 2014, the data show no statistically significant uptick in pot usage among teens so legalization hardly leads to the reefer madness some critics feared. But the numbers available for Colorado and other states that have lifted bans for adults also don’t reveal the clear pattern of decline in youth pot use that Cassidy described.
Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize retail marijuana sales, so they have the longest track records to study.
In Colorado, a 2018 report by the state Department of Public Safety’s Division of Justice reviewed data from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which includes answers to various health questions asked of more than 40,000 middle and high school students every other year. The survey is conducted by the state’s Department of Public Health & Environment.
Results from the survey show 19.7% of Colorado high schoolers reported using marijuana within the past month in 2013, the year before the first retail marijuana store opened. In 2015, that figure rose slightly, but experts told PolitiFact in 2016 that increase was not statistically significant. In 2017, the rate dipped to 19.4%, slightly lower than it had been in previous surveys dating back to least 2005. […]
The state [of Washington] conducts a biennial youth health survey similar to Colorado’s, which breaks its data down by grades. Its results show some small declines but suggest little has changed there either, with decreases of 1% between 2014 and 2016 among 8th and 10th graders who said they currently used pot, followed by 1% increases for both grades in 2018. For 12th graders, rates fell by 1% the year after retail sales began and have remained at that level, which is in line with pre-legalization rates. […]
Changes in the other five states where retail sales are underway are even more difficult to evaluate than Colorado or Washington. Alaska’s state survey reported no statistically significant changes since recreational cannabis was approved for adults in 2014 and hit the market in 2016. Results in Oregon, which followed a similar timeline, were mixed. And it’s too soon to assess results out of Nevada, California and Massachusetts, which each repealed bans in late 2016 but only began allowing sales within the last two years.
*** UPDATE *** Press release…
In response to a recent PolitiFact/BGA story on the accuracy of State Representative Kelly Cassidy’s comments on teen use, Legalize Illinois issued the following statement:
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers
“Colorado, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and Maine all show declines in teen use since legalizing adult-use cannabis. Washington state saw declines in two of the three age groups it studied. Somehow, though, the Better Government Association found it possible to describe Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s statement that, ‘In states that have legalized, you see steady decreases in youth use if you do it right’ as ‘mostly false.’ We hope this was an honest misreading of the data and not a temptation to create click-bait.
“Let’s look at the facts. Nationwide, use by 9th-12th graders has declined from 23.1% to 19.8% (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) In Oregon, use among 8th graders has declined from 9.7% to 6.7%, (Source: Oregon Healthy Teens Survey), in Nevada 19.3% to 17.9% (Source: Nevada Youth Risk Behavior Survey) and in Washington from 20% to 17.2% (Source: Washington State Healthy Youth Survey.) And so on.
“The BGA story itself cites the Colorado declines but editorializes that the study is unreliable because its data is ‘baseline and preliminary.’ What Rep. Cassidy said – and what the BGA chose to malign her about – was the statement, ‘In states that have legalized, you see steady decreases in youth use if you do it right’. The statistics show she is correct.
“To borrow from the BGA’s own designation, we rate their story as follows: ‘Mostly False – The story contains particles of truth but ignores critical data that would have given the reader a more accurate impression’.”
* Illinois Survey That Supposedly Shows Support for Legalizing Marijuana Is ‘Dwindling’ Actually Shows It Is Rising: An anti-pot group’s own polling shows that support for legalization has risen by 78 percent since November 2017.