Weed Use Decreases Among Teenagers in Canada

The number of Canadian teenagers between the ages of 15-17 who consume cannabis has dropped from 20% to 10% since the country legalized marijuana.

On the 17th of October, 2018, Canada became the second country, after Uruguay, to federally legalize cannabis for recreational consumption. For many onlookers the country served as a social experiment, leading many to wonder, what will happen now that weed is legal in Canada? Will the country fall into a state of disarray? Will its citizens all come down with a case of Reefer Madness?

Well, a year and a half later, and it looks like some evidence is beginning to pour in – and it may surprise you. Interestingly, teenage cannabis consumption has been cut in half since Canada legalized weed.

Statistics Canada's National Cannabis Survey reports that the percentage of those aged 15 to 17 who use the drug has fallen to 10 percent from 20 percent.

The news flies in the face of those who'd scream "think of the children!" in response to marijuana legalization efforts. Turns out, if you want adolescents to quit smoking weed, the best way to do it is by legalizing the plant.

While the reduction in teen cannabis consumption may seem counterintuitive at first, the explanation is rather simple.

The first and most obvious reason behind the adolescent decline in cannabis use is the reduction in the black market that accompanied the legalization of cannabis. While legislative and infrastructural issues plagued Canada's initial legalization and led to a persistent black market, the black market shrank nonetheless.

According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, Canadians that acquired cannabis from the black market dropped from 51 percent in 2018, to 38 percent in the first three months of 2019.

Moreover, the Canadian cannabis industry was found to be overflowing with weed in late 2019, with government statistics showing that cannabis inventories hit nearly 400 tonnes by the end of August. Some estimates believe that this level of cannabis oversupply could cover over two years of demand, leading to a "race to the bottom" in prices.

While this mightn't be ideal for cannabis cultivators in the short term, the lowered prices driven by an oversupply of cannabis may help to further undercut the black market, and shrink illicit sales even more.

While dispensaries require proof of ID, dealers don't. The more dispensaries there are, and the fewer dealers, the fewer adolescents will be found smoking weed.

Couple this with the plain packaging on cannabis products required by law, and the industry isn't too enticing for youths.

As evidence increasingly pours forth regarding the benefits of cannabis legalization, like the immense number of jobs it can create, the high tax revenues it can generate, and now, the reduction in adolescent drug use, it seems the case for cannabis legalization grows stronger by the day.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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