Fears that the legalization of recreational cannabis across the USA would result in a nation packed with permanently stoned teenagers have proved unfounded.
In fact, research conducted by Montana State University gathered data from 1.4 million teenagers and found that usage has declined by nine percent among teens in states that have taken the legalization path.
It seems counter-intuitive at first glance, but on closer examination, it makes perfect sense.
Demystifying cannabis. Back in the 1960s and 70s, smoking weed was associated with the US counterculture. It was a symbol of rebellion against the status quo. Today, states that have legalized have dispensaries in every town and city.
Websites like CannaConnection provide advice relating to different strains. Buying weed has become as socially acceptable among responsible adults as buying wine and let’s be honest, you seldom see rebellious teens gathered on park benches on a Friday night sipping glasses of merlot.
Disrupting the illegal supply chain. It’s also a question of availability. Legal recreational cannabis is sold through dispensaries that are just as thorough with their ID checks as a store that sells cigarettes or alcohol. Meanwhile, illicit street dealers are inevitably in decline.
From a purely pragmatic perspective, selling weed on the street is a far less attractive and more risky way to make money when your main customer base is suddenly underage kids.
It’s their grandparents you have to watch. In fact, it is older cannabis users who are proving to be a greater cause of concern. While the number of teenage stoners is declining, cannabis use among over-65s is going through the roof.
Of course, these are the same people who were in their teens during the Summer of Love – a case of reliving their foolish youth?
That’s certainly part of it, and in parallel to the born-again biker phenomenon, there’s the risk that what’s available in 2022 is significantly more potent than it was in the 1970s.
But also, many older adults have turned to medical marijuana for therapeutic purposes. Easier availability without the need for a prescription along with the extra anxiety brought about by events of the past year or so has inevitably led to some seniors using cannabis as a crutch.
Communication is key. For those stuck in the middle, it is just another example of the world turning on its head in these strange times. 40-something generation X-ers are finding their teenage kids have little interest in experimenting with weed.
Instead, it’s their parents that are more likely to give them cause for concern.
Ultimately, legalization has brought cannabis into the open. We are more knowledgeable about its benefits as well as its risks and more comfortable discussing its use.
Researchers believe that this atmosphere of transparency and open communication is a key factor in reducing cannabis use by teenagers. It can be just as valuable in avoiding problematic use among older generations, too, as long as we keep talking.