Media Release 22 December 2020
US state-level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the most authoritative study on drug use conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), has found significant increases in youth cannabis use in several recently legalised marijuana states versus last year. At the same time, mental illness indicators worsened across the country while alcohol, cocaine, and tobacco use dropped, especially among young people.
According to the data, adolescents aged 12-17 using marijuana in the past year significantly increased versus last year in the legalised states of Nevada, Oregon, and California. All other legal states showed increases as well, but versus last year they did not reach statistical levels of significance.
Nevada experienced a 17.4% increase, while Oregon and California witnessed increases of 15.4% and 14.5%, respectively. These increases were not witnessed in non-legal states. In non-legal Virginia and New York, adolescent past year marijuana use significantly fell, as it did in the non-legal Southern region of the United States.
The data additionally show a statistically significant 25.5% increase in past-month use in California among those aged 12-17.
The data also show us that youth use in states that have “legalised” marijuana far outstrips use in states that have not. Past-month marijuana use among young people aged 12-17 in “legal” states is 54.5% higher than past-month marijuana use among 12-17-year-olds in “non-legal” states (10% versus 6.47%). Past-year marijuana use among this age group in “legal” states is 41% higher than that of 12-17-year-olds in “non-legal” states (17.12% versus 12.14%).
Use among young adults aged 18-25 skyrocketed, especially in legal states.
At the same time, mental health indicators, including major depressive episodes, suicidal thoughts, and serious mental illness have worsened.