Many people who subscribe to the “gateway drug” theory believe that the legalization of marijuana will result in more teenagers using marijuana and eventually trying substances such as heroin, ecstasy and amphetamines. However, a new study strongly contradicts both of those claims.
Recent statistics regarding drug usage by young people shows that marijuana use amongst teenagers has remained steady, despite the fact that some states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults. Additionally, fewer teens are using hard drugs like heroin, and the number of high school students using alcohol and cigarettes has fallen to the lowest level since 1975.
A survey showed that in 2015, 44.7% of 12th graders stated that they have tried marijuana at some point. This is up just 0.3% from last year. For 10th graders, the marijuana usage rate fell from 33.7% to 31.1%. And for 8th graders, it fell from 15.6% to 15.5%. Marijuana usage rates for all three age groups are considerably lower than they were in the late 1990s.
Recreational marijuana has been made legal in Colorado, Washington state, Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC. Additionally, medical marijuana has been approved in several other states.
These recent statistics contradict the arguments of Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, who said that marijuana legalization would encourage children to experiment and lead to the usage of harder drugs. However, it turns out that marijuana legalization has not had this effect, and states with less restrictive marijuana policies are doing a good job of educating teenagers about the potential consequences of drug use.
According to executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy Betty Aldworth, last year a historically high number of 12th graders stated that they supported the legalization of marijuana, despite the fact that most 12th graders said that they would not use marijuana even if it were legal. Basically, even the young people of America know that the prohibition of marijuana was a major failure.