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Teenage Cannabis Use in Washington Has Not Risen Since Legalization, State Study Confirms

Under the directive of the state’s legalization law, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy released a preliminary report reiterating statistics about typically low teenage cannabis use.

by Zach Harris

Opponents of cannabis legalization have for years challenged the idea of marijuana progress under the explicit warning that opening pot shops and ending unfair arrests would have a horrific effect on the children, who would not doubt be given THC-laced Halloween candy and pre-rolls at the Sadie Hawkins dance. Time and time again, though, fear-mongering ideas of reefer madness have been proven wrong, with the latest rebuke coming from Washington State.

According to the Seattle Times, a preliminary cost-benefit analysis of Washington’s post-legalization habits, required in the writing of the state’s legalization framework, Initiative 502, was released by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) this week. And while the study gave no concrete assurances, it does reiterate the same conclusion that most other researchers tasked with the same question have indicated - kids aren’t smoking more pot in legal weed states.

“In my overall appraisal, there’s not much evidence I-502 has caused changes in the outcomes we looked at,” said Adam Darnell, the lead researcher and author of the WSIPP report.

The researchers used data from the state’s 2016 Healthy Youth Survey to make their claims, so the conclusion doesn’t come as a surprise, but rather an increasingly public spotlight shined on the positive realities of legalization.

In addition to the consistent or dropping rates of youth use, the WSIPP report touched on employment data that says the state’s cannabis industry has created the equivalent of 6,227 full-time jobs, paying out over $286 million in wages.

On the law enforcement side of the statistics, Washington’s cannabis arrests have gone down for both legal adults and teens still subject to prohibition. Like the youth use statistics, though, the declining arrest numbers were not gathered from statistics this year, and represent a preliminary outlook. 

The report is self-described as a “snapshot of our progress to date and are an intermediate step towards the ultimate cost-benefit analysis of I-502. Results may change as implementation of the law progresses and more outcome data become available.”

But with federal cannabis detractors like Attorney General Jeff Sessions continually speaking out against legalization, with the safety of children as their ill-informed emphasis, it has become necessary to push the most up-to-date research and statistics into the public discourse as loudly as possible.

The WSIPP will continue to release updated reports about the state of Washington’s legal weed lifestyle as data becomes available.


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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