One of the leading arguments of the groups that are against the legalization of cannabis was the possibility of the increase in the substance use, especially with high school students. It was no different in the state of California.
Californians voted for legal cannabis and the state started off its legal sales of recreational cannabis on January 1, 2018. California has a long history with cannabis and was the first state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996. In the early 2000s dispensaries were established and it positioned Los Angeles the leading city in the early days of what has become the ‘cannabis industry’.
However, the expectations of the detractors of cannabis were proven wrong by facts. Researchers reported that since the legalization and regulation of cannabis for adults of legal age in America, cannabis use among high schoolers has decreased.
A big and independent company named California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) released their study that stated that in a span of 4 years from 2013-2017, seventh-grade users of cannabis dropped for 47% since its legalization in California last 2016.
Meanwhile, in the case of ninth graders, cannabis use dropped by 25% during the the duration of the study. On the other hand, cannabis use in eleventh graders dropped by 16% percent. All in all, the percentage of teenagers using cannabis regularly is gradually decreasing in the course of the study.
The researchers were also able to conclude that the declines in substance use are striking that almost all major indicators of alcohol and cannabis use, overall prevalence as well as frequent or heavy use, are down by 3 or more points. Since the survey was led by an independent company, the funding was nonpartisan.
It was the 16th statewide student survey that started from 1985, which then became a mandate by the California Legislature in 1991. The California Department of Health Care Services in partnership with the California Department of Education spent the taxes allotted to them in order to make this survey possible. 45,267 students took part in the survey coming from 2015-2017 and a random selection between the 7th, 9th, and 11th graders happened which was administered by CHKS.
However, the critics of the legalization of cannabis called out the duration of the research saying that it does not cover more legitimate and recent improvements. They noted that retail business for cannabis started when the study of the California Healthy Kids Survey already ended. These anti-cannabis groups like Project SAM warn about drugged driving and their long argument on cannabis’ long-term health dangers.
According to the survey report:
“How the recent legalization of marijuana use for adults in California effects [sic] the declining trend among youth warrants attention. The next biennial survey will be of particular interest to shed light on whether the change in state marijuana laws affect these findings.”
Because the research focused only to prove the decline of teenage cannabis users, it was not able to figure out as to why the percentage of the users decreased in the first place. However, they gave ideas as to the possible factors that resulted in such.
First, they identified the parental factors, peer influence, and to some extent their personal choice of disapproval. Second, was that the declines in the percentage could stem from the fact that legalized cannabis is now bound by rules and regulations, similar to those that allow you to acquire alcohol. They deduced that with the policies in place, it is not any easier for high schoolers to purchase cannabis.
Supporters of the legalization believed that this study complements the same results that came from other states that legalized cannabis since they established a strict age limit of 21 years old coupled with a strong anti-youth smoking campaign. Furthermore, the legalization of cannabis in California or the California legalization Proposition 64, marks as much as millions of dollars of excise and sales tax collection each year that are reserved for anti-cannabis ads that are aimed at the youth sector.
A statement from Ellen Komp, the deputy director of California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), states that “The initial reports confirm that legalizing and regulating cannabis does not increase youth marijuana use, but rather it has the opposite effect. The fact that the biggest drop in reported use came from younger age groups is a particularly encouraging indicator of the success of regulation.”
It has been proven that arrests because of cannabis cases pave the way for the school to prison pipeline. According to activists, cannabis laws are enforced disproportionately in people of color especially black people as compared to Caucasians. Studies by ACLU have supported this claim.
“It’s time to stop trying to ‘send a message’ to young people about drugs and instead implement sound, science-based policies that best protect our children and public safety, along with our privacy and human rights,” Komp said.