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Regulation, Not Prohibition is Key to Reducing Teen Marijuana Use

Unlike drug dealers, licensed merchants in a regulated market would be prohibited from selling to underage customers, be required to check IDs.

(WASHINGTON D.C.) – An annual survey released today by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America shows that the number of American teenagers who use marijuana has increased for the first time in 10 years, with 25 percent of teens in grades 9 through 12 saying they’ve used marijuana in the past month, up from 19 percent the previous year.

“These latest numbers show that our current marijuana policies—which keep marijuana unregulated and in the hands of drug dealers—are clearly not working to help reduce teen use,” said Kurt A. Gardinier, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“But if marijuana were taxed and regulated, and sold only by licensed merchants who would be required to check IDs, we could much better control marijuana and help to keep it out of the hands of teenagers. That’s why cigarette smoking among teens has continued to drop since the early ‘90’s, while teen marijuana use has not. Drug dealers do not check IDs.”

In the Netherlands, for example, marijuana is sold in regulated establishments to adults who must show proof of age.

As a result, according to a 2008 World Health Organization survey, the overall rate of marijuana use in the Netherlands is less than half what it is in the United States.

Additionally, only 7% of Dutch teens have tried marijuana by age 15. In the U.S., as many as 20.2% of teens have tried marijuana by age 15, according to government estimates.