cannabis sales and teen use
cannabis sales and teen use

Cannabis Sales are Surging Yet Teen Consumption is Falling, Why?

Marijuana rates are dropping among youths as sales are booming during COVID

Posted by:
Reginald Reefer on Saturday Aug 8, 2020

Why are Youth Cannabis Rates Declining in States like Colorado?

teen cannabis use in colorado drops

One of the biggest fears by opponents of cannabis legalization has been “the message we send our kids”. Their logic states that if the government were to legalize cannabis – we would essentially be telling kids that “cannabis is okay”.


Of course – this kind of logic is easily dispelled by the mere legality of tobacco and alcohol, which are categorically more harmful than cannabis and yet somehow manage to maintain the “this is an adult thing but it’s legal” narrative.


Nonetheless – one of the major fears for opponents were an increase in youth cannabis consumption. However, recently even a stringent career prohibitionist – Dale Quigley – had to acknowledge that the data is showing the opposite effect occurring in legal cannabis states.


Excuse me? What’s that? Could you say that again?


Dale Quigley have been riding the prohibitionist train since the beginning and recently at a speaking engagement on the impacts of cannabis legalization to a committee in North Dakota. Within this he was forced to acknowledge some of the data concerning youth cannabis consumption. 


“For some reason, the use rate among this age bracket is going down,” said Dale Quigley, deputy coordinator for the National Marijuana Initiative, a project of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program. “We’re not 100 percent sure why it’s going down. It’s a good thing that it’s going down, but we don’t understand why.” - Source


While he’s not entirely sure – there are a few prevailing theories. We will get into that a bit further down.


Quigley cited data from the U.S Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services and defines “current use” as use within the period of a month.


“In looking at the state of Colorado for 12-to-17 year old current use, we had a spike in ’14, but overall the use rates in Colorado have been declining,” he said, “and that matches what we’re seeing in other states and also the trend we’re seeing nationally.”


In other words, these trends do not only hold true in Colorado but also nationally. Everywhere cannabis is being legalized we’re seeing a dip in youth consumption rates. While Quigley tried to weave in some of his core programming [reefer madness] into the talk, the hard data seemed to support legalization. His anecdotal references did not hold as much weight as the data from SAMHSA.


What could be the reasons for Youth Cannabis Consumption Decline?


As Quigley states, “We don’t know why yet” – researchers still haven’t reached a definitive conclusion on the subject matter.


An October 2019 study using data from Washington State explained the dips in teen cannabis consumption in that state as resulting either from increased regulation compared to the illicit market or simply the “loss of novelty appeal among youths.”


Due to high taxation – there still is black market cannabis available. In fact, one could argue that black market cannabis in legal states are simply legal cannabis sold on the black market. Or perhaps home growers selling to consumers.


However – if this is the case, it could bring in other issues these studies have not yet considered.



Under the prohibition model – kids had access to cannabis because it was virtually on every street corner. It was “Mexican Shwag Weed” for the most part, meaning that it was cheap.


Legal cannabis is not cheap. It can be a very expensive thing if you’re looking for quality. $30-$40 a dab hit makes consuming cannabis on the regular not a viable option for Youths who make no money.


How does a thirteen year old ask his mom or dad for $100 for weed? When cannabis is inexpensive and sold on the black market – you can easily buy a baggy and still spend it on other things. However, a few grams of dabs can bankrupt a teen really quickly.


The second factor that researchers are ignoring is the “risk factor”. We can safely say that the black market vendors under the Mexico-Import Model probably are still selling. The home growers might sell- but by selling to teens comes an inherent risk most people don’t want to take.


If I can grow cannabis and sell it to responsible adults – and if I’m caught, perhaps pay some fines or do some community service [in a legal state]- selling to the youth would invalidate the leniency of the sentence.


It’s like “sell to adults you get a slap on the hand, sell to a kid you get 3-5!” The criminal punishment for selling to the kids make it less viable for eligible grey market vendors to refrain from selling. Additionally - kids can’t simply walk into dispensaries and buy weed.


Of course – the decline of the perception of novelty of cannabis could also be a factor. I have long suspected that once you remove the taboo from cannabis that the youth would abandon the pursuit of rebelling through it. Perhaps legalization was always the answer to keep youth consumption rates in check all along.









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