Dried cannabis flower

Are Legal Cannabis Sales Associated With An Increase In Youth Consumption Rates?

A common prediction made by cannabis opponents leading up to the legalization of adult-use cannabis sales in a given jurisdiction involves a potential spike in cannabis consumption rates among young people.

However, a team of researchers from the University of Nevada (Reno), the University of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Department of Health recently conducted a data analysis and found that the initiation of state-licensed cannabis sales is not independently associated with an increase in cannabis use among young people. The researchers’ findings were published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

Researchers at the University of Nevada (Reno), the University of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Department of Health compared trends in reported cannabis use among middle school students in Nevada and New Mexico. During the period covered by the analysis, Nevada permitted retail sales of cannabis products while New Mexico did not.

Voters in Nevada first approved medical cannabis legalization in 2000, although regulated dispensaries did not launch until 2014. In November 2016, Nevada voters approved adult-use cannabis legalization which included permitting recreational dispensaries to operate within the state’s borders. Adult-use cannabis sales began in New Mexico in April 2022.

The team of researchers reported “no immediate change in lifetime or past 30-day marijuana use among middle school-aged adolescents in Nevada compared to New Mexico.” Rather, cannabis use trends in both states followed similar trajectories.

Consistent with other similar studies, the researchers concluded, “Adult-use sales were not associated with an increase in lifetime or P30D [past 30-day] marijuana use.”

As NORML pointed out in a news release, “Although the study’s authors did identify upticks in marijuana use among certain demographics (e.g., students of color) during the study period (2017-2019), numerous other studies assessing nationwide trends over the better part of the past decade have consistently reported that cannabis use among teens has steadily declined.”

Additional information about this topic is available from NORML’s Fact Sheet, ‘Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.’