This Is What Happens When Teens Have More Access to Marijuana

Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

*This article has been revised to include updated information

Seeing marijuana become legalized in a select handful of states, the past few years have been an interesting and exciting prospect. The entire nation played witness as Colorado and Washington (though Oregon and Alaska soon followed) became the first states to devise legal cannabis markets and industries. Surprisingly to some, the passage of voter-backed legalization initiatives did not lead to one of the many scenarios dreamt up by doomsayers. Rather, it’s been an economic boon for those states, generating millions in revenues, and creating tens of thousands of jobs.

The good news hasn’t deterred some opposers, however, who still believe legalization is a bad idea in spite of the mounting evidence to the contrary. One of the biggest fears is that legalizing marijuana will lead to an epidemic of substance abuse and addiction disaster for younger demographics.

You may know it as the old “think of the children” argument.

Concern is warranted, of course. Legalization was and continues to be an experiment, and there is no way of accurately predicting what might follow. But conventional wisdom what say that the more available or accessible something is, the more people would tend to use it. For example, if the drinking age in the United States was lowered to 18, assumptions would be that drinking for individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 would skyrocket, and possibly lead to a spike in drinking among those even younger.

But when it comes to marijuana, we’re not seeing what people was expected. As it turns out, marijuana legalization may be actually having the opposite effect on usage rates in the teenage population. Here’s a visual of those rates,  produced by Quartz:

Source: Quartz

The data used to populate this graphic, from a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal, shows marijuana legalization has actually led to a decline in teen use rates — and rather significant declines. A drop of 2% among 8th graders alone was witnessed, and in total, a 1.8% drop among all high schoolers.