Statement on NSDUH State Estimates 2015-2016
New Federal Data Show Legalized States’ Marijuana Use At Alarming Rates; Colorado Now Top State in US for First-Time Marijuana Users
Other legal states also show alarming increases in use
The average rate of regular teen marijuana use in the legalized states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington is 30% higher than the U.S. rate as a whole, according to new data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Almost a third of all 18 to 25 year olds in legal states used marijuana in the past month, up from around one-fifth ten years ago.
New data released last week show Colorado as the top state in the Nation for first time marijuana users, and its rate of first time users has more than doubled in the last decade. In that state, use among people 18 and over has also skyrocketed, as well as use among young adults aged 18-25.
Use among 12-17 year olds is slightly higher than 10 years ago (though lower versus last year).
Monthly use has also gone up in Washington by 10% since last year, and in virtually all legal marijuana states since before legalization, among household residents 12 and older.
Young adult use skyrocketing
Of particular concern was the fact that the use rate among 18 to 25 year olds has increased across the board. In Colorado, almost half of young adults used marijuana at least once in the past year, up from 37% in 2005. Washington DC’s number is 51%, up from 30% in 2005 – representing a more than 50% increase in users. In Oregon, use is up in this category more than 10% versus last year, and it is up 50% in the past ten years.
Teen use still a concern
In Colorado, 7.6% of 12 to 17 year olds used marijuana in the past month in 2005-2006, compared to 9.1% currently. While that number is lower than in recent years, we do not know how many of these users are heavy users. National estimates have reported significant increases in the number of heavy marijuana users in the U.S. Medical marijuana became commercialized around 2009, and that is when use started to rise. In Oregon, youth monthly use is up since last year, and in Washington it is up since 2008-2009.
Adult use is a major problem
For adults, many of whom drive regularly and are in the U.S. workplace, marijuana use can be a public health and safety hazard. Adult monthly use has increased in Colorado and Oregon almost 40% since legalization, and yearly use has also increased across all legal states since laws have changed.
NEW POLL REPORTED IN WASHINGTON POST: Support for Legalization Falls When Voters Have More Choices
As reported today in the Washington Post:
The proportion of Americans who express support for marijuana legalization in opinion polls has risen sharply over the past decade
from the low 30s to as high as 60 percent. But a new poll shows that what Americans who support “marijuana legalization” actually want is more nuanced than it might appear.
The anti-legalization advocacy organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) commissioned Emerson College pollsters to ask 600 registered voters in New York State about marijuana policy. The proportion who agreed that “the use of marijuana should be made legal for adults aged 21 and older” was 60 percent,
virtually identical to the 62 percent who answered the same question affirmatively in a prior Emerson College poll of New York State voters
commissioned by legalization advocacy organizations. Respondents don’t know the views of the organization that has commissioned the poll, so it is unsurprising that the results were so similar across polls despite the opposing views of their sponsors.
However, the SAM poll included a second question, which took into account the fact that New York State has already legalized medical marijuana and has removed criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana (a policy known as “decriminalization”). This more detailed question was “Knowing that personal marijuana possession is already decriminalized and medicalized in New York, which one of the following policies do you prefer?”
Given more options from which to choose, respondents’ support for legalization dropped by a third, from 60 percent to 40 percent. Apparently, some of the poll respondents who had previously expressed support for legalization assumed they were being asked about the legality of medical marijuana or of personal marijuana possession. The “60 percent support” was thus actually a mix of people who supported legalization and those who opposed it but wanted marijuana to be accessible to severely ill people, opposed criminal penalties for personal consumption, or both.
The influence of question wording is often overlooked when marijuana-related polls are discussed, but has been familiar to drug policy scholars for many years. In their 2001 book Drug War Heresies
, Professors Rob MacCoun and Peter Reuter, noted that survey responses vary depending on whether full legalization, decriminalization and prohibition are all included as response alternatives, and that posing stark choices at the extremes might even understate the public’s support for more modest reform options.
Substantively, the New York data shows that a strong majority of voters do not want anyone arrested for using marijuana (i.e., they support either legalization or decriminalization) and do want sick people to have access to medical marijuana (i.e., they support either legalization or medical marijuana).
But full legalization – corporate farms, marijuana processing companies, advertising, lobbying and the like – is considered desirable by a minority of New York voters.