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Federal Study: No Changes in Youth [Cannabis] Use Trends Following Legalization

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The enactment of statewide adult-use legalization laws is not associated with any nationwide changes in either the use of cannabis by young people or its availability, according to data published by the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES is part of the United States Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These data reaffirm that youth [cannabis] use has remained stable despite the liberalization of adult use laws. These findings make it clear that cannabis access can be legally regulated for adults in a manner that is safe, effective, and that does not inadvertently impact young people’s habits.”

Consistent with prior data, the federal report concludes that youth [cannabis] use has remained unchanged over the better part of the past decade – during which time numerous jurisdictions have legalized the sale of [cannabis] products to adults. It reads: “The overall percentage of students who reported using [cannabis] at least 1 time during the previous 30 days in 2019 was not measurably different from the percentage in 2009…. 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.”

The report further acknowledged that White, Black, and Hispanic students all consumed cannabis at similar rates during this time period, but that self-reported use was higher among LBGT students and Native Americans.

Text of the study, “Marijuana Use and Illegal Drug Availability,” is online here. Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, “Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.”


NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of [cannabis] by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use [cannabis] responsibly no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for [cannabis]-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.

Find out more at and read our Fact Sheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country.

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