Monitoring the Future: Study Shows no Increase in Youth Cannabis Use as Legalization Spreads

As cannabis legalization continues to spread across the country, some worry that normalization will lead to an increase in use amongst teens and young adults. 

However, many recent studies have found just the opposite. 


Monitoring the Future

Recently, a study conducted by the University of Michigan analyzed self-reported rates of cannabis use by young people over the last four years.

The survey, titled Monitoring the Future (MTF), is given annually to students in eighth, 10th, and 12th grade, and regards their substance use behaviors over the past 30 days, past 12 months, and over their lifetimes. There were a total of 11,821 participants from 112 public and private schools across the country. 

Overall, the results showed no significant change in cannabis use among adolescents nationwide.

“The use of marijuana in all forms … by adolescents [nationwide] did not significantly change in any of the three grades [8th grade, 10th grade, and 12th grade] for lifetime use, past 12-month use, past 30-day use, [or] daily use,” explained the National Institute of Drug Abuse. 

In addition, the percentage of teens who vape cannabis daily decreased among 10tth graders from 2019 to 2020. 

There was, however, a notable rise from 2017 to 2019 in the percentage of teens who reported vaping nicotine. 

In a statement from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)Deputy Director Paul Armentano noted the findings to be consistent with ongoing proof that legalization can both provide access for adults, while limiting such for minors.

“The 2020 Monitoring the Future findings add to the growing body of scientific literature showing that legalization policies can be implemented in a manner that provides access for adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse. Furthermore, these findings stand in sharp contrast to the sensational claims often made by legalization opponents, claims that thus far have proven to be baseless.“

MTF will continue to study the trends in youth substance use, with new findings released each fall. To access this year’s and previous surveys click here

Emerald contributor since June 2019


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