Washington has one more statistic to support the legalization of recreational cannabis in the Evergreen State: Washington youth cannabis use hasn’t increased since the enactment of Initiative 502, the measure that legalized recreational cannabis in the state.
Using census data from the Washington Healthy Youth Survey, the “I-502 Evaluation and Benefit-Cost Analysis,” a study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, found that youth cannabis use has remained stable or decreased slightly for public school students in grades 8, 10 and 12 since recreational dispensaries first opened in July 2014.
“We found no evidence of effects of the amount of legal cannabis sales on indicators of youth cannabis use in grades 8, 10, and 12,” researchers wrote in the study.
According to the study’s technical appendix, “Lifetime and 30-day cannabis use and heavy 30-day use all decreased among 10th graders in the most recent HYS data. Among 12th graders, lifetime use fell in 2016, whereas 30-day use and heavy 30-day use remained at levels established in 2010.”
Beyond Washington youth cannabis use, the report also examined adult use, criminal convictions and treatment admissions.
Adults residing in counties with high rates of legal cannabis sales were more likely to have used cannabis within the past 30 days; in January 2013, the month Initiative 502 was enacted, misdemeanor cannabis possession convictions hit 0; and treatment admissions for cannabis abuse dropped from 7,843 in 2012 to 6,142 in 2015.
This is the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s second cost-benefit report on legalization as mandated by Initiative 502, with the next report due Sept. 1, 2022, and the last report due Sept. 1, 2032.