10 Recent Studies Show Adult-Use Legalization Does Not Cause Significant Upticks in Teenage Use.

Updated: Feb 15

On the road to legalization, you will come across the argument that the recreational legalization of adult-use cannabis leads to an increase in cannabis use by teens and pre-teens. The opposition will make an empathetic plight for the youth of our state. This is a false narrative meant to mislead others and emotionally manipulate them into believing that being "for cannabis" means you are "against children". While cannabis science reaches new heights, politicians and anti-cannabis organizations reach new lows.


Fortunately, there are states, like Colorado and California, that have had legal, recreational cannabis for well over two decades. In fact, if you were born after 1996 you've never lived in a version of the United States where cannabis was illegal in all 50 states.


Time has given us much data, our national office, NORML.org, has tracked and logged it.


Here are the 10 most recent studies proving no significant increase in adolescent use as of the date of this blog.


  1. National Center for Education Statistics, Marijuana Use and Illegal Drug Availability, May 2021

  2. Trends in youth cannabis use across cannabis legalization: Data from the COMPASS prospective cohort study, Preventive Medicine Reports, 2021

  3. Recreational marijuana legalization and adolescent use of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2020

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prescription Opioid Misuse and Use of Alcohol and Other Substances Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019, 2020

  5. Marijuana legalization and prevalence among adolescents, American Journal of Public Health, 2020

  6. National Institutes on Drug Abuse, December 17, 2018 press release

  7. Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, 2018

  8. Adolescent marijuana use, marijuana-related perceptions, and use of other substances before and after initiation of retail marijuana sales in Colorado (2013-2015), Prevention Science, 2018

  9. Marijuana use and related health care encounters in Colorado before and after retail legalization, International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 2018

  10. “Colorado teen use hasn’t spiked,” Westword, June 21, 2018






1. National Center for Education Statistics, Marijuana Use and Illegal Drug Availability, May 202


“The overall percentage of students who reported using marijuana at least 1 time during the previous 30 days in 2019 was not measurably different from the percentage in 2009 (21 percent)…. There was no measurable difference between 2009 and 2019 in the percentage of students who reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property.”

National Center for Education Statistics, Marijuana Use and Illegal Drug Availability, May 2021


2. Trends in youth cannabis use across cannabis legalization: Data from the COMPASS prospective cohort study, Preventive Medicine Reports, 2021


“Canada legalized recreational cannabis use for adults on October 17, 2018, with decision-makers emphasizing the need to reduce cannabis use among youth. We sought to characterize trends of youth cannabis use before and after cannabis legalization by relying on a quasi-experimental design evaluating cannabis use among high school students in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Québec who participated in the COMPASS prospective cohort study. Overall trends in use were examined using a large repeat cross-sectional sample (n=102,685) at two-time points before legalization (16/17 and 17/18 school years) and one after (18/19 school year). … In the longitudinal sample, no significant differences in trends of cannabis use over time were found between cohorts for any of the three use frequency metrics. Therefore, it appears that cannabis legalization has not yet been followed by pronounced changes on youth cannabis use.”


Trends in youth cannabis use across cannabis legalization: Data from the COMPASS prospective cohort study, Preventive Medicine Reports, 2021



3. Recreational marijuana legalization and adolescent use of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2020

“Youth Risk Behavior Survey data from 47 states from 1999 to 2017 assessed marijuana, alcohol, cigarette, and e-cigarette use among adolescents (14-18+ years; N = 1,077,938). Associations between RML (recreational marijuana legalization) and adolescent past-month substance use were analyzed using quasi-experimental difference-in-differences zero-inflated negative binomial models. … Controlling for other state substance policies, year and state fixed effects, and adolescent demographic characteristics, models found that RML was not associated with a significant shift in the likelihood of marijuana use. … Results suggest minimal short-term effects of RML on adolescent substance use, with small declines in marijuana use.”

Recreational marijuana legalization and adolescent use of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2020


4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prescription Opioid Misuse and Use of Alcohol and Other Substances Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019, 2020