How tough it must be to be a stoner teen in the year 2017. “Weed, weed everywhere, but not a hit for me.” Though weed is more legal now than it’s been in since the 1930’s, following a wave of recreational and medical cannabis legalization in recent years, teens are actually finding it harder to get their hands on ganja than they have in 24 years.
That’s according to the 42nd annual report from Monitoring The Future (MTF), a study which surveys roughly 45,000 adolescent and teenage students in 380 schools around the U.S. Survey respondents fall into three different categories: 8th graders, 10th graders, and 12th graders, as reported recently by the Extract.
Only 34.6 percent of 8th graders said that marijuana was “fairly easy or very easy to get,” a 2.4 percent drop from the year before and an all time low in the history of the survey, which began asking that question in 1992. 10th graders with an easy connect are also at an all time low, with just 64 percent saying they have a guy. 12th graders, on the other hand, actually reported a slight uptick in weed availability last year. 81 percent said they can get some green with ease, over 79.5 percent in 2015. Cannabis aquirability has stayed relatively constant for this demographic since 2012, and is down significantly from a decade ago when 84.9 said they had easy access.
The development has reversed expectations for some drug policy experts. “I don’t have an explanation. This is somewhat surprising,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [availability and use] would go up. But it hasn’t gone up,” Volkow told U.S. News & World Report.
But some cannabis advocates were not surprised. “We’ve always argued that taking marijuana out of the unregulated criminal market and putting sales into the hands of responsible retailers would actually make it harder for young people to get,” Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority told the Extract. “The new data bear this out, and it’s just common sense.”
But Angell’s explanation might not be the only one for the decreasing availability of weed to teenagers. The MTF study also found a steady decrease in use of cannabis among teens. 8th and 10th graders have both dropped off in their weed use in recent years. Black market drug dealers, ones that are receptive to the market anyway, might not want to spend their energy targeting a group who’s less and less interested in weed. If that were true, it would mean there were fewer weed dealers for teens to turn to, which means less access to weed.