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Federal Report: Youth Cannabis Use Steadily Declining

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The self-reported use of [cannabis] by teenagers continues to decline nationally, according to federal data reported by the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Commenting on the data, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “”Regulation and education is a more effective and a more preferable tool to discourage youth use and access than is criminalization.”

“A pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of [cannabis] to adults but restricts its use among young people – coupled with a legal environment that fosters open, honest dialogue between parents and children about cannabis’ potential harms – best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or abuse. By contrast, advocating for the marijuana’s continued criminalization only compounds them.”

The agency’s 2018 report finds that past-year [cannabis] use by those ages 12 to 17 has fallen consistently since 2002, from 15.8 percent to 12.5 percent. Since 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first states to regulate adult use access, past-year youth use has fallen eight percent.

By contrast, self-reported cannabis use by older Americans has risen during this same time period.

The federal data also reports a consistent year-over-year decline in the prevalence of so-called “[cannabis] use disorder” among teens – a finding that is consistent with other studies.

Separate evaluations of marijuana use patterns specifically in cannabis legalization states show little if any change in cannabis use or access by teenagers. Data published online in JAMA Pediatrics in July reported that states with “recreational [cannabis] laws were associated with an eight percent decrease in the odds of marijuana use and a nine percent decrease in the odds of frequent [cannabis] use” among teens.

For more information, see the NORML fact-sheet, “Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.”


NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high-quality cannabis that is safe, convenient, and affordable.

Find out more at and read our factsheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country at

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