According to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of cannabis use among high school students in Seattle, Washington has declined significantly since 2008. The report, which analyzed data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), suggested that the legalization of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over in 2012 may have played a role in reducing the availability and appeal of cannabis for younger people.
CDC Finds Lower Cannabis Use Among Seattle Teens
The CDC report, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on January 26, 2023, compared the trends of cannabis use among eighth-, tenth-, and twelfth-grade students in Seattle from 2008 to 2020. The report found that the percentage of students who reported using cannabis in the past 30 days decreased from 23.7% in 2008 to 15.6% in 2020, a 34.2% reduction. The percentage of students who reported ever using cannabis also decreased from 42.4% in 2008 to 30.5% in 2020, a 28.1% reduction.
The report noted that the observed decreases in cannabis use among Seattle students “might be associated with changes in the availability of cannabis among persons aged ≥21 years as well as limited opportunities to engage in use.” The report cited previous studies that have found similar declines in cannabis use among high school students after the legalization of nonmedical cannabis in other states.
Legalization May Have Impacted Cannabis Availability and Appeal for Teens
The report speculated that the legalization of cannabis for adults in Washington, which was approved by voters in 2012 and implemented in 2014, may have affected the availability and appeal of cannabis for younger people. The report stated that “the legalization of nonmedical cannabis for adults aged ≥21 years in Washington with licensed dispensaries requiring proof of age might have affected availability of cannabis to younger persons as well as their opportunities to engage in its use. This, in turn, might have had an impact on use prevalence.”
The report also suggested that the legalization of cannabis may have changed the perception of cannabis among teens, making it less attractive or rebellious. The report stated that “legalization might also have influenced social norms and perceptions of harm related to cannabis use, which are associated with use among adolescents.”
CDC Recommends Comprehensive Prevention Strategies to Reduce Teen Cannabis Use
The report acknowledged that there are still some unanswered questions about the role of cannabis legalization in influencing teen cannabis use, and that more research is needed to understand the potential benefits and harms of cannabis use among different populations. The report also emphasized that cannabis use among adolescents is still a public health concern, as it can impair cognitive development, academic performance, and mental health.
The report recommended that public health practitioners, educators, parents, and policymakers implement comprehensive prevention strategies to reduce cannabis use among teens, such as providing accurate information about the health effects of cannabis, promoting positive youth development, and enforcing age restrictions and impaired driving laws. The report also urged for continued monitoring and evaluation of the impact of cannabis legalization on youth outcomes.