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The Kids Will All Be Getting High Turns Out to Be 100% Wrong and Another Reefer Madness Myth Debunked

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teen marijuana use does not rise with marijuana legalization

Turns out the kids were alright

As Cannabis.net covered the latest teen marijuana study here, turns out teen marijuana use does not go up with legalization.

For decades, prohibitionists have claimed that legalizing cannabis would send the wrong message to kids, leading to rampant increases in underage marijuana use. “We’d basically be telling our youth that it’s acceptable,” they argued, using the talking point to stir moral panic and block reform efforts. However, now that data is emerging from the growing number of states ending prohibition, those old arguments are crumbling.

 

New federal survey results continue to defy the notion that legalization enables youth access and promotes teen consumption. In fact, the trends seem to reveal quite the opposite – despite nearly a dozen more states opening recreational markets since 2020, underage marijuana use has remained completely stable according to the latest Monitoring the Future (MTF) study. So much for the theory that legal dispensaries on every corner would lead to our children blazing up with abandon.

 

It turns out all that rhetoric about sending the “wrong message” was just reefer madness without evidence. Teen marijuana use has not risen “even as state legalization has proliferated across the country,” according to federal health officials. If anything, perceptions of risk and lack of availability seem to have discouraged underage experimentation beyond pre-pandemic rates.

 

The data makes it clear – our long-held fears about how ending prohibition would influence kids were based on guesswork and stigma, not facts. Our drug policies led to the incarceration and marginalization of millions – and for what? The same groups we claimed to “protect” show no differences in use rates based on legality. It’s the latest evidence that this moral panic was overblown from the start.

 

So in today’s article, we’ll analyze the recent federal survey results and trends over time to explore why legalization seems to have so little influence on real teen behavior. We’ll discuss what it means for the outdated idea that prohibition somehow shields youth. And we’ll reflect on how biased drug war messaging ultimately caused far more harm to society than cannabis itself ever could. The facts require us to rethink everything we were taught about “sending messages” to the young. It’s time to have an honest discussion based in truth.

 

 

Taking a closer look at the latest federal data reveals stable trends in teen marijuana use that fail to support prohibitionist rhetoric. The Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey showed no statistically significant increases in adolescent cannabis consumption from 2020 to 2022, even as more states enacted legalization policies.

 

According to the survey results, past-month marijuana use for 8th, 10th and 12th graders has hovered between 6.6 – 8.3%, 16.5 – 17.8%, and 28.4 – 29% respectively over the past three years. These rates remain below pre-pandemic levels as well, despite historic highs in adult use. In other words, the data suggest that “whatever is happening with adult-use legalization across the country has not really impacted the younger people,” says Chief Marsha Lopez of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)’s epidemiology branch.

 

Even perceptions of cannabis access and availability are on the decline among adolescents, bucking expectations. “In fact, that has been trending downward over the years,” Lopez remarked. This reveals the flaw in arguments that more dispensaries automatically enable diversion to kids – if anything, regulated markets appear to reduce youth access. Lopez also highlighted the “steadier declines in the perception of harm without the corresponding increases in use” typically expected as stigma drops.

 

In essence, neither perceived harm nor availability seem correlated to actual teen consumption patterns amid continuing legalization efforts.

 

Additionally, the prevalence of daily adolescent marijuana use has held “remarkably steady for the last 10 years,” showing little fluctuation even as recreational markets started opening. This challenges rhetoric about the “normalization” of cannabis somehow promoting increased habitual use. In fact, Lopez shared that “there have been no substantial increases at all” in that daily use rate.

 

Comparisons between prohibition states and those with medical marijuana laws also showed no statistically significant differences in past-year consumption rates among teenagers of any grade. The slight variances that did appear followed no predictable pattern regarding policy outlook. For instance, 8th graders in medical states saw cannabis as less risky but weren’t more likely to use it. The evidence does not support clear associations between any given regulatory scheme and youth behavior changes.

 

Ultimately the survey data reveals stable equilibriums in adolescent marijuana use over time, regardless of broader legalization efforts. This fails to explain why teen behavior would somehow hinge more on criminalization policies that primarily affect adults. In essence, the data shows kids will be kids whether we end prohibition or not. The expectations that legalization would clearly influence youth were biased speculation without solid basis.

 

 

When prohibition ends, the expectation might be that sudden availability will lead to rampant youth access and use. Yet historically, illicit drugs have remained widely available to teens regardless of illegality. Meanwhile, no policy can fully prevent adolescent experimentation. So in many ways, stable youth usage despite legalization makes intrinsic sense.

 

Even under prohibition, underground markets thrive off demand from all ages. Minors who want to use cannabis have always been able to get it through peer connections, whether legal dispensaries exist or not. Perhaps the only real difference is removing criminal middlemen who once enabled thataccess.

 

With storefronts checking IDs and limiting diversion, many youth actually perceived decreasing availability post-legalization. So the assumption that simply having aboveboard retail options would automatically expand teen access appears flawed. If anything, regulation chokes off the supply chanels they relied upon.

 

And when policy changes fail to significantly impact access, use levels follow suit. Adolescents consume based more on developmental factors, peer pressure and perceived harms over mere availability. Since legalization didn’t drastically alter these core drivers, stability isn’t shocking.

 

Essentially, teens will be teens, whether cannabis sits behind the counter legally or gets slipped covertly. Usage rates reflect larger cultural influences beyond regulated sales. The same kids occasionaly smoking weed illegally are largely still doing so post-reform because external deterrents remain similar. Criminalization simply pushes activities underground without preventing them.

 

In that sense, bringing cannabis commerce into daylight may even provide opportunities to deter youth use through candid education over scare tactics. Where prohibition breeds mystery and allure, realistic guidance on moderation could help lead by example.

 

We see it with alcohol – despite legality and availability, less than 15% of U.S. teens drink weekly because acceptance coexists with transparency about risks. Perhaps the same balance can be struck over time regarding youth and cannabis as reform advances.

 

In states with established legal markets, generations are gradually growing up knowing cannabis exists openly in society, like alcohol. But thus far data doesn’t show that environment significantly increasing their likelihood to use it. Kids aren’t suddenly picking up new habits simply because local dispensaries start opening under a taxed and regulated model.

 

And even where experimentation occurs, the risks remain similar to legal substances. As with alcohol, only a small fraction go on to seriously problematic usage. Most reflect the moderate majority who exercise free choice responsibly regardless of policy. So whether modern youth live under prohibition or legalization, behaviors stay largely the same.

 

Perhaps these insights give hope that ending criminalization need not equate to condoning increased use – including for teens. Like alcohol, safe enjoyment in moderation needn’t be forfeited to prevent hazardous excess. And reasonable laws needn’t forfeit rights to curb abuses most wouldn’t consider exercising anyway.

 

With the myth of legalization enabling youth use scientifically shattered, we must rethink what example society should set. Does continuing a failing prohibition actually protect kids – or progress towards system that equips people of all ages to make wiser choices? The choice is ours to make policies based on facts over fears.

 

 

When we peel back the layers on teen marijuana use amid legalization, the bottom line remains quite sticky – both literally and figuratively. Not only have fears of increased youth consumption failed to materialize, but the assumptions behind prohibition have always clung to rhetoric over reason. They persist more from their addictive power to control than any scientific validity.

 

The data makes it clear – our policies have long been shaped more by bias than facts regarding cannabis and youth. We allowed the spread of misinformation to perpetuate a system that treated morality as reality. We sacrificed ethical considerations for generations based on little more than hazy speculation, vested interests and saccharine myths.

 

In the process, how many lives and families suffered collateral damage from excessive penalties over a relatively benign substance? How many youths endured lasting impacts from a criminal record over minor possession? The projections about sending “messages” to kids proved far less credible than the harms enacted upon them in the name of protection.

 

And behind it all lies the bigger ethical dilemma – by what right does any authority dictate what individuals can safely consume, or deny access without just cause? At what point is it not only impractical but immoral to limit personal freedoms preemptively based on puritanical notions of societal danger? The line between protection and oppression blurred long ago.

 

Perhaps it’s time we reassess the balance of responsibility regarding rights related to cannabis, its risks relative to legality, and our desire to control cohorts who never asked for protection. The data shows adolescent use changes little either way. But one choice inflicts less harm on those claimed to safeguard.

 

As legalization marches forward, bringing transparent cannabis commerce along, we must reflect on how many of our policies still stem from reactionary worry over reason. How much of our lives remain controlled by the whims of those in power? And how the myths they peddle frequently do more damage than the vices they supposedly protect us from?

 

The choice of what messages we send our youth remains sticky. But clear data helps cut through the muddy logic of prohibition. Beyond fear-based talking points lies a rational discussion worth having on complex comparisons of legality versus morality.

 

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How Legal is CBD, Really?

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The legality of CBD remains a subject of considerable debate. Despite the fact that many CBD companies[1]  have now existed for more than a decade, the legal context surrounding this non-intoxicating cannabinoid remains muddy for the average shopper. In this guide, we’ll explore the legality of CBD in detail, examining the implications along the way.

History of CBD Laws

Extracts of Cannabis sativa have been widely prepared and sold for centuries beyond count. It’s unclear exactly when human beings and cannabis intersected, but it’s believed cannabis has been a part of daily life at least as long as apples and potatoes.

 

It’s only recently that laws have turned discriminatory toward cannabis. Starting in Europe in the 19th century, this anti-cannabis fervor eventually reached the United States, spurring the “Reefer Madness” craze that ultimately led to cannabis being illegalized with the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.

 

In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act sealed the deal, and hemp was not grown in considerable acreage until academic pilot programs began resurfacing in the early 2000s. By the early 2010s, legal loopholes were identified at the federal level that allowed CBD commerce to emerge online.

 

In 2014 and 2018, the United States Congress gave CBD the nod with Farm Bills that facilitated hemp cultivation and commerce. Not much has changed in the ensuing years, however, leading to a hemp economy that has begun to stagnate in some sectors.

Recent Developments in CBD Legislation

Cannabis-related measures continue to be proposed at both the state and federal level. Few of them focus specifically on CBD, however, which remains in a gray area loosely delineated by the 2018 Farm Bill and subsequent clarifications from the FDA, DEA, and USDA.

 

It appears the situation with CBD will remain unclear federally for the foreseeable future. There seems to be an “unwritten rule” that upstanding CBD companies will not run afoul of federal agencies as long as their conduct meets a certain unofficial threshold.

 

The FDA continues to issue warning letters to CBD companies that violate the dictates of the 2018 Farm Bill, but enforcement is rare and usually amounts to relatively small fines. At the state level, legislators continue to evolve their stances on CBD and related products, mainly in an effort to siphon tax revenue.

Potential Future CBD Regulations

Over time, the slew of largely unrelated hemp and cannabis laws continuously being produced by Congress may begin to amount to a comprehensive federal stance on cannabinoids. At this current juncture, however, cannabinoid regulations ever more commonly have less to do with the shopper’s interests and more to do with securing government revenue.

 

The ideal solution that hemp proponents have expounded for years, namely that CBD be judged an over-the-counter substance, appears further and further away as time goes by. At present, it seems the de facto approach is to not address the underlying legality of cannabinoids but to instead determine how best they should be taxed.

 

It might not be an ideal situation, but for the average CBD producer, this is still good news. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when it seemed the federal government was on the verge of attempting to ban CBD products outright. Though the current circumstances may remain muddy, at least there’s no longer any indication that the federal government is antithetical to hemp and CBD overall.

CBD Legality: The Bottom Line

As we finish up, it’s important to carefully address a few final points:

CBD regulations vary by state

For most intents and purposes, CBD can be considered federally legal. Each state has its own laws and regulations pertaining to CBD and other cannabinoids, however, some of which are more restrictive than others. CBD laws can be restrictive both in states that are firmly anti-cannabis and in those that have newer adult-use cannabis industries that suffer from direct competition with online CBD vendors.

No medical claims

CBD is certainly not legal when it is advertised as offering medical benefits. It’s fine to reference evidence that CBD might be useful for a particular ailment. To outright say that CBD treats or cures a medical condition, is tantamount to asking for the scrutiny of the federal government.

Professionalism first

The CBD companies that are currently succeeding are those that go above and beyond. Clean products, transparent communication, impeccable certification: these are the hallmarks of the future’s top CBD brands. Focusing on quality will make it less likely to flub regulations.

Respect CBD

CBD is a powerful compound, and it comes from a plant that has an amazing power to heal. Put CBD’s benefits first and foremost, and you’ll find that your company naturally begins to fit the parameters that both shoppers and regulators approve of most.



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California Cities: Prohibition Doesn’t Work

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California has a population of nearly 40 million, six years of cannabis licensing, but only has about 1,200 licensed dispensaries. These stores are mostly spread out in highly populated areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and so on. The problem is that many California cities still prohibit cannabis licensing, even in places where a majority of the locals approved the state’s recreational cannabis program in 2016. This is a massive problem and is one of the key reasons the illegal market thrives. Let’s look at why that is the case and what these cities can do to change it.

Why prohibition doesn’t work

When the government prohibits something, there is an existing market for that thing, and a fear on the part of the government (justifiable or otherwise) that failure to prohibit it would lead to some kind of societal harm. Because there is an existing market for the thing, there is necessarily some kind of demand for it. If the government bans the thing, some people will realize that the potential cost (prison, fines, stigma, etc.) outweighs the benefit, and demand will go down.

But others will find that the benefit outweighs the potential cost, no matter how high it is — which is why people still roll the dice in countries like Singapore that will execute drug traffickers. So while prohibition may decrease demand, it won’t end it. And so long as there is some demand, again, some people will roll the dice.

This is exactly what has happened in the decades since cannabis was prohibited. If prohibition were an effective deterrent, then you would expect there not to be a high level of use or incarceration. But we’ve seen the opposite. There have been millions of people arrested and incarcerated for violating the Controlled Substances Act and state-law counterparts. It’s pretty clear then that these laws don’t have their intended effects, which brings me to the next point.

What problems are California cities creating?

When California voters passed the state’s flagship recreational licensing law in 2016, California cities were given an immense amount of control over the new industry. Perhaps realizing the initiative would face strong opposition if it took power away from cities, the drafters included provisions that allowed California cities to completely ban cannabis activities within their limits. These provisions led to local bans in vast swathes of the state.

While cities have slowly “come online” over the years, there are still vast swathes of the state without legal access to cannabis. In fact, many cities even sued the state when it tried to officially sanction statewide delivery rules. What this means is that there are still many California cities that prohibit cannabis.

If those cities are trying to eliminate local cannabis markets, I’ve got a bridge to sell them. Prohibition didn’t work before the state legalized cannabis, and it certainly won’t work when the state won’t lift a finger on enforcement. California cities that keep their bans alive are only bolstering their illegal markets and making it more difficult for the legal market to survive.

What California cities should be doing to combat the illegal market

I recently corresponded with Hirsh Jain of Ananda Strategy, who believes that the state needs 4,000 to 5,000 dispensaries to carry the legal market. And those dispensaries shouldn’t just be in Los Angeles or San Diego. They’d need to be dispersed across the state so that people have access and the legal dispensaries could compete with the illegal ones (and ideally put them out of business). If more California cities don’t end prohibition, illegal dispensaries and delivery services will continue to operate whether they like it or not.

That said, there are other things that California cities can do to combat the illegal market without allowing brick-and-mortar sales. One big one would be to allow outside delivery services to deliver into their borders. While the state did pass a law attempting to expand statewide access to medical cannabis deliveries, that fails to include the much larger recreational market. It also likely excludes potential medical cannabis purchasers who don’t want to or don’t have the resources to obtain a physician’s recommendation or medical marijuana ID card (MMIC).

Expanding retail deliveries would be a win-win for the legal market and cities alike. Yet for some reason, California cities fought it tooth and nail. While those cities may have thought they won, the real victory belonged to the illegal market, which continues to grow and grow.


If the legal market is to survive, California cities are going to have to make compromises when it comes to cannabis prohibition. After all, cannabis is still being sold within their borders. For some of my thoughts on California’s problematic illegal market, check out these posts:





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The Good ‘Dirty Little Secret’ about Weed

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You may remember that Justin Timberlake once said, “Some people are just better on weed”. Well, if he was referring to people with ADHD or ADD, he may be right.  While many studies on marijuana for ADD or ADHD show great results to help people with “scatter” brain start to focus, UFC Sean O’Malley is the latest person to preach the plants’ benefits for focus.

Bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley breaks the stereotype associated with marijuana users. At 29, he incorporates marijuana into his training regimen to achieve a state of intense focus, which appears to yield positive results.

 

In an interview with Demetrious Johnson, O’Malley clarified misconceptions about his marijuana use: “Contrary to popular belief, I don’t consume as much as people assume.” Asserting his professionalism as an athlete, he claims to excel in managing his recovery compared to others in the UFC, attributing it to his disciplined habits and routines.

 

Recognizing the potential drawbacks of smoking on lung health and conditioning, O’Malley adopts measures to safeguard his fitness standards. He opts for vaporizing marijuana, particularly during training camps, using a high-quality vaporizer once daily instead of traditional methods like joints, bongs, pipes, or dabbing.

 

O’Malley reveals that during specific training sessions, such as longer, lower-intensity workouts lasting up to 60 minutes, he trains while under the influence, leveraging marijuana to enhance his focus. However, he acknowledges the importance of using it as a tool responsibly, cautioning against falling into unproductive habits like aimlessly watching YouTube while high.

 

The upcoming UFC 299 main event on March 9 sees O’Malley defending his 135-pound championship title for the first time against his rival, Marlon “Chito” Vera. Seeking redemption for his only career loss, which Vera inflicted upon him at UFC 252 in August 2020, O’Malley is determined to emerge victorious.

 

The Science Behind O’Malley’s Approach

 

Sean O’Malley’s use of cannabis to increase concentration during training begs interesting concerns concerning the relationship between marijuana use and athletics. Cannabis includes chemicals like THC and CBD that interact with the brain’s endocannabinoid system to influence a variety of physiological activities, despite being frequently linked to relaxation and altered perception.

 

Studies suggest that low to moderate doses of THC may improve focus, creativity, and cognitive performance in some individuals, potentially explaining O’Malley’s reported ability to “hyper-focus” during workouts. Additionally, CBD, another prominent compound in cannabis, has been linked to reduced anxiety and improved recovery, which could complement O’Malley’s training regimen.

 

However, the effects of cannabis on athletic performance remain complex and multifaceted. While some athletes may experience benefits in terms of concentration and relaxation, others may encounter impairments in coordination, reaction time, and cardiovascular function. Furthermore, individual responses to cannabis can vary widely based on factors such as dosage, method of consumption, and personal tolerance levels.

 

Experts caution that while cannabis may have its place as a performance-enhancing tool for certain athletes, careful consideration must be given to its potential drawbacks, including the risk of dependence, negative effects on lung health, and legal implications, particularly in professional sports settings.

 

O’Malley’s method offers as an engaging case study for negotiating the complex link between cannabis use and sports performance as researchers continue to investigate the physiological and psychological impacts of cannabis. O’Malley starts a wider discussion about the place of cannabis in contemporary sports training and competition by illuminating the science underlying his unorthodox training techniques.

 

Managing Marijuana Use in Professional Athletics

 

Navigating the use of marijuana in professional athletics involves a delicate balance between personal choice, regulatory compliance, and performance optimization. Despite evolving attitudes toward cannabis, organizations like the UFC maintain stringent anti-doping policies, prohibiting its use above specified thresholds during competition periods. Athletes such as Sean O’Malley must therefore carefully manage their marijuana consumption to ensure adherence to these guidelines while still leveraging its potential benefits for training and recovery.

 

For O’Malley and others incorporating cannabis into their routines, managing marijuana use requires strategic planning and adherence to regulatory standards. This involves selecting consumption methods and timing consumption to minimize the risk of exceeding allowable THC thresholds during testing. O’Malley’s transparency about his usage patterns and advocacy for responsible consumption practices set a precedent for athletes navigating the complex landscape of drug policy in professional sports.

 

Professional sports may see more changes in policies and attitudes as talks about decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis continue. Athletes who are willing to share their personal stories and advocate for more nuanced approaches to drug policy, such as O’Malley, are vital in influencing this conversation. Going forward, managing the changing link between cannabis usage and sports performance will need constant communication and cooperation between players, coaches, and regulating authorities.

 

O’Malley’s Training Rituals: Balancing Intensity and Recovery

 

Gain insight into Sean O’Malley’s methodical strategy to integrating cannabis into his routine while striking a balance between intensity and recuperation by learning about his training rituals. To maximize effectiveness in the octagon, O’Malley’s training regimen combines focused rest times with intense sessions in a calculated manner.

 

The understanding that efficient recuperation is equally as important as intense exercise is at the heart of O’Malley’s training philosophy. O’Malley makes sure that his body can adjust and get stronger in response to the demands of his training routine by using restorative habits like healthy eating, drinking enough of water, and getting enough sleep. When utilized responsibly, cannabis is another weapon in O’Malley’s toolbox that he can employ to improve concentrate during longer, lower-intensity sessions without jeopardizing his recuperation.

 

O’Malley is a perfect example of the value of an all-encompassing approach to sports training as he strikes a balance between effort and recuperation. O’Malley reduces the chance of injury and fatigue while simultaneously optimizing his performance capacity by placing equal emphasis on restorative techniques and physical activity. O’Malley’s training regimens are always being improved, and his techniques are proof of the need of smart, individualized approaches to physical preparation for success in the UFC and other competitions.

 

Bottom Line

 

Sean O’Malley’s pioneering approach to incorporating cannabis into his training regimen challenges stereotypes and opens up discussions about its potential benefits and drawbacks in professional athletics. His transparency and advocacy for responsible usage set a precedent for athletes navigating complex drug policies while seeking performance optimization. As attitudes toward cannabis continue to evolve, ongoing dialogue and collaboration among athletes, coaches, and governing bodies will be crucial in shaping policies that balance regulatory compliance with individual health and performance goals. O’Malley’s dedication to balancing intensity and recovery underscores the importance of personalized, holistic approaches to training, serving as a blueprint for athletes striving for success in high-level competitions like the UFC.

 

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