Data debunks major myth about legal marijuana

The swirl of myths surrounding legal marijuana has been around since the 1920s and Reefer Madness, but now a new study puts one to rest

In the 1930s, the United States was in a frenzy over cannabis. The government funded a film called “Reefer Madness,” which laid the foundation for a long-term misunderstanding about marijuana. Part of the plot showed evidence of how the lives of four high school students who were tricked into trying marijuana by a drug dealer spiraled out of control. The film includes a hit-and-run, suicide, murder, rape and the rapid descent of marijuana users into madness. The evidence in Reefer Madness was later proven to be completely false. But a myth was born.

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Anti-marijuana advocates have long said legal marijuana would increase underage use. It applies until the age of 21, the brain is still developing. Marijuana, like the use of alcohol and other drugs, has effects. Unlike the Camel cigarette campaign, the cannabis industry has been careful not to advertise to children. Now the data is debunking a major myth about legal marijuana and youth use.


The 2022 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, conducted by the University of Michigan with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), found that rates of cannabis use last year “remained stable for all three levels examined.” and consumption remained lower than pre-pandemic levels even as more state-run adult-use marijuana markets opened and expanded.

“There have been no significant increases at all,” said Marsha Lopez, head of NIDA’s epidemiology research division. “In fact, they didn't report any increase in perceived availability either, which is kind of interesting.”

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They reported that the use of almost all substances fell dramatically between 2020 and 2021 following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated changes such as school closures and social distancing. In 2022, the most commonly reported substance use among youth remained stable at these lower levels, and this latest data shows that trend has continued this year. In 2023, 10.9% of eighth graders, 19.8% of 10th graders, and 31.2% of 12th graders reported using illicit drugs in the past year.

Facts matter when it comes to marijuana legalization. Especially given the benefits it has for anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more.

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