“Geez, Pot is So Lame!”—That’s the tag line to a political cartoon that ran shortly after Oregon had legalized marijuana for all adults.
The cartoon showed a middle-aged, overweight dad in a pot leaf T-shirt, alongside his wife in a peace-symbol tie-dye. The two kids are playing video games as the dad says, “Well, kids, now that pot is legal, your mom and I are going to go get us a bag of Maui Wowie!”
The thought bubble from the nonplussed kids reads, “Geez, pot is so lame.”
I immediately thought of that cartoon when I read the latest data coming from the Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Simply put, in the past 20 years or so, teenagers are drinking less, smoking less and, yes, toking less, too.
Remember when California was gearing up to pass Prop 215, the medical marijuana law? Oh, how prohibitionists were so certain that going easy on sick tokers was going to lead to a nation of red-eyed teen pot zombies, roaming the streets in desperate searches for straaiiinns, straaiinns!
I remember then-Drug Czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey calling medical marijuana “Cheech & Chong medicine” in a press conference where he lamented the “wrong message” Prop 215 would send to the children about marijuana use.
Let’s see, in 1997 (the year Prop 215 went into full effect), according to this latest CDC data, over 47 percent of American high school students had tried marijuana.
In 2015, after legalizing medical marijuana in over 20 states and legalizing adult use in 4 states, the CDC data says that just over 38 percent of students have tried marijuana.
That’s a relative 18 percent drop over the past two decades. That’s almost one-out-of-five kids who would’ve tried pot in the ‘90s who aren’t trying pot in now.
This CDC data is the third data set from federal sources to confirm the decline in teen pot smoking.
Earlier this year, the Monitoring the Future study, which has tracked 12th graders since 1975, found similar results, with 12th grade pot smoking remaining relatively steady over the past decade and 8th and 10th gade toking experiencing declines.
But hidden in the MTF data is a stat that didn’t get a whole lot of attention. Every year, they ask the 12th graders if they wanted to get a hold of some weed, how easy would it be?
For the past four decades, no less than 80 percent of high school seniors said it would be “easy” or “fairly easy” to score a bag. But in 2015, for the first time ever, that figure dropped to 79.5 percent—a statistically insignificant drop, to be sure, but it doesn’t seem that legalization is making it any easier for kids to score.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health also confirms the teen smoking decline, though their 2015 data isn’t out yet.
Also found in the data is the fact that over time, kids’ perception of risk from using marijuana has declined. Our opponents’ argument had been that legalizing weed would lead kids to think it was less dangerous, and therefore they’d use it more.
Indeed, kids now rate marijuana use as less risky, and they show less disapproval toward people that use marijuana. That shouldn’t be surprising; for years, kids had been told marijuana was the deadly-dangerous ticket to Heroinville, so telling them anything truthful about marijuana is going to be less scary than what they had been told.
Essentially, over time, kids’ perception of marijuana hasn’t softened, it’s become more accurate.
And yet, they didn’t start smoking it more! Imagine that!
I think that cartoon nailed it perfectly. A normalized, everyday joint smoked by mom and dad does more to de-glamorize marijuana than a thousand TV ads of cartoon dogs, eggs in frying pans and Nancy Reagan intoning the dangers of pot. Marijuana has become the Cohiba cigar or Pinot Grigio wine that are boring old people vices.
Speaking of tobacco and alcohol… kids are dropping those even faster. Over the past two decades, teen smoking is down over half (55 percent), lifetime drinking is down almost a quarter (23 percent) and binge drinking is down almost half (47 percent).
And we didn’t arrest a single adult, raid a single liquor store or eradicate a single vineyard to accomplish those results.
(Photo by Lochfoot)