Teens’ Access to Marijuana Not Increased After Legalization

Teenagers smoking marijuana after schoolWashington state’s 2012 legalization of marijuana for recreational use did not increase adolescents’ access to the drug, according to a study presented May 1 at the annual meeting of Pediatric Academic Societies.

Marijuana, which has been researched as a potential treatment for several symptoms and diseases, is still classified on the United States Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of Schedule I narcotics. This classification indicates the drug has no approved medical use and a high potential for addiction. Some advocates have pushed for a change in the drug’s classification. The District of Columbia and 24 states have passed laws allowing some medical uses for marijuana. Four states—Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Alaska—as well as the District of Columbia have decriminalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

Does Marijuana Legalization Increase Teen Access to Drugs?

For the study, researchers analyzed the number of teens who said marijuana was “easy” to access in 2010, prior to the legalization of marijuana in Washington, to the number who said marijuana was accessible in 2014, after the drug’s legalization.

In 2010, 55% of teens said marijuana was easily accessible, compared to 54% in 2014. Although this suggests legalization did not increase access to marijuana, marijuana’s accessibility fell at a slower rate than some other drugs. Forty-seven percent of teens said alcohol was hard to access in 2014, marking a significant increase from the 43% who agreed with the statement in 2010. Fifty-three percent of teens said cigarettes were hard to access in 2014, compared to 42% in 2010.

The study’s authors suggest this points to an increased need for measures that minimize teen marijuana use.

Adolescent Marijuana Use Trends

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana use was stable nationwide in 2014. About 6% of 12th graders reported daily using the drug, with 6.5% of 8th graders, 16.6% of 10th graders, and 21.2% of 12th graders using the drug in the last month. About 35% of 12th graders reported using marijuana in the past year.


  1. DrugFacts: High school and youth trends. (2014, December). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/high-school-youth-trends
  2. Drug scheduling. (n.d.). Drug Enforcement Administration. Retrieved from http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml
  3. Legalization of marijuana in Washington had no effect on teens’ access to drug. (2016, April 30). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/aaop-lom042216.php
  4. State marijuana laws map. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.governing.com/gov-data/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html

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  • wendy

    May 3rd, 2016 at 4:59 PM

    We moved to Colorado shortly before they passed the legalization laws and we were a little concerned at first how this would impact our kids. Happily I can say so far that they have shown very little interest in it and there are not many stories going around that there are kids out there who are abusing the situation. I am glad because i know that it can become so easy to get caught up in that kind of behavior and while I think that it can be ok in moderation for an adult I am sure that I would not wnat my children to become involved at an early age.
    Overall I would say that it has been good for our state, and well, I hope that eventually the rest of the country could follow suit.

  • Marian

    May 4th, 2016 at 2:13 PM

    I would have hoped that the numbers would have started going down but I suppose that for now we will have to be content with stability.

  • Mollie

    May 5th, 2016 at 1:38 PM

    Personally I wish that they would say that it is all pretty difficult to access.

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