The road to cannabis legalization has been long and full of obstacles. While drug reform activists have preached the social and economic benefits of legalizing cannabis, proponents against legalization have argued that making cannabis legal and accessible to the public will lead to teens abusing the drug. However, according to an official from the White House’s anti-drug office, the consumption of cannabis by teens has fallen in Colorado and other states that have legalized marijuana for adult consumption.
Speaking to a committee of North Dakota lawmakers on Wednesday, Dale Quigley stated that “for some reason, the use rate among this age bracket is going down.” He is the deputy coordinator for the National Marijuana Initiative, a project of the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (“HIDTA”) program. Although he can’t pin down why use rates among teens has been reducing in the state, the trend has been seen nationally.
“In looking at the state of Colorado for 12 to 17-year-old current use, we had a spike in ’14 but overall the use rates in Colorado have been declining, and that matches what we’re seeing in other states and also the trend we’re seeing nationally,” says Quigley, currently a resident of Colorado and a law enforcement officer since 1979. His comments were made during a wide-ranging presentation on the impacts of cannabis legalization to the North Dakota lawmakers. He used data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Organization (“SAMHSA”), which defines ‘current use’ as cannabis use within the past thirty days.
The HDTA program, which funds the National Marijuana Initiative, was established under the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy after Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. According to the Marijuana Initiative’s website, it “strives to dispel misconceptions about marijuana and raise awareness of issues surrounding the drug.” It provides policymakers with speakers on cannabis issues, with presentations ranging from 60 minutes to 8 hours.
Quigley posits that youth may be scared of potent products and vaping. “We’re hearing anecdotal stories about kids that are afraid of the potency levels, you know, teens that have had adverse reactions to vaping and concentrates,” he says. Meanwhile, the committee of North Dakota lawmakers is expected to issue a report on marijuana legalization sometime this fall, most likely in November.
Experts say that when anti-marijuana officials like Quigley begin admitting that benefits are accruing from legalization at state level, companies like VIVO Cannabis Inc. (TSX.V: VIVO) (OTCQX: VVCIF) get renewed hope that a change of policy at the federal level isn’t far off.
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