Washington Survey Says Teen Cannabis Use Hasn’t Increased Since Legalization
The Washington Department of Health surveyed almost a quarter million teenagers and found levels of marijuana use on par with data from 10 years ago.
Published on March 25, 2017

A new set of data from Washington state’s 2016 Healthy Youth Survey is putting legal weed doubters at bay, and once again suggests that an end to prohibition won’t be akin to “adding weed to our Halloween baskets for kids,” as one Connecticut parent claimed at a recent legalization hearing. Apparently, this year’s crop of Washington teens are smoking just as much, or as little, weed as the same age cohort has for the past decade.

The survey asked over 230,000 Washington State middle and high schoolers in 8th, 10th and 12th grade about their history with alcohol, tobacco, prescription pills, and cannabis. The study looked at past month use and found that 6% of 8th graders, 17% of 10th graders and 27% of 12th graders had used marijuana in the past 30 days.

To see how that compared to the state’s pre-legalization numbers, we pulled up the same survey from 2010, before recreational pot shops opened in Washington. It turns out that both 8th and 10th grade use has significantly dropped since the end of prohibition, with 9.5% of 8th graders and 20% of 10th graders reporting cannabis use in the 2010 survey, over 3% higher than the current numbers for each age range.

High school seniors were the only grade that reported an increase in use between 2010 and 2016, and that was by the slight margin of 0.7%.

The steady and decreasing numbers are particularly interesting considering the survey also shows that Washington teens consider cannabis less risky than teenagers before them. Since the start of legalization in 2014, 8th graders have responded less frequently that regular marijuana use is a “great risk,” with 48% of the younger cohort perceiving great risk, as opposed to 53% of the same age bracket two years ago.

But even armed with the knowledge that marijuana isn’t as dangerous as it was once made out to be, and with pot shops abound, Washington’s teenagers are deciding for themselves to smoke less weed.

So next time a concerned lawmaker tells you that legalizing weed would turn your state’s high schoolers into doped-up drop-outs, point them towards Washington State, where teens are proving that they’re not as susceptible to hysteria as some of our elected leaders.

Zach Harris
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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