Imagine my surprise when (a) a new study published by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found cannabis legalisation leads to increased youth use, and (b) that the media didn’t report it. It’s justification that NZ made the right decision in voting No. It also flies in the face of what the Yes camp were saying – which was that legalising cannabis would not lead to any increase in use.
This new study looked at more than 3 million High Schoolers aged between 12 to 16.. and ‘found significant increases in lifetime and past-month marijuana use among almost all demographics’. “Of concern was relatively greater increases in the prevalence of cannabis use among younger adolescents...” the study said.
So the age old theory of you are what you are surrounded by, rings true here doesn’t it? Isn’t environment everything? Don’t kids born into the normalisation of drugs and alcohol usually grow up going the same way? So why then would pro- cannabis legalisation advocates think that by normalising marijuana use, we do anything other than make it more available, attractive and normal?
Researchers in this study warned that… ‘the greater increases in these normally low-risk groups may be attributed to marijuana use becoming more normative due to legalisation.’ Not only that, mental health stats worsened. Which is exactly what the vote No proponents said would happen. US data from a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found ‘significant increases in youth cannabis use in recently legalised marijuana states’.. and that at the same time, ‘mental illness indicators worsened across the country, while alcohol, cocaine, and tobacco use dropped.’
Staunch advocates of the no-vote to the legalisation referendum here say this data.. ‘should put to rest the wild claims by drug advocates in New Zealand that somehow – and miraculously - youth use of drugs is going to decline if we legalise cannabis. It is evident to everyone with both eyes open that New Zealand dodged a bullet by voting no in the recent referendum,’ that’s according to Family First’s Bob McCoskrie.
Will we see this reported here in NZ? No of course not, it doesn’t fit the pro-cannabis agenda so prevalent here in mainstream media. Which is a shame, because when facts are presented as data, they deserve to be reported, not ignored.
The good news – and there is good news for us given we haven’t gone down the legalisation track... is that here in New Zealand, ‘teen use (of cannabis) is dropping. In 2019, only 23 per cent of high school students reported having ever used marijuana in their lifetime, dropping from 38 per cent in 2001.’ That’s according to the Youth19 Rangatahi Smart Survey Substances report. So we did the right thing by our young people, even if the media choose to ignore the facts on that.
Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.
Breaking Views brings you expert commentary on topical political and policy issues. The views expressed are those of the author alone. The blog is administered by the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, an independent public policy think tank at NZCPR.com - register for the free weekly NZCPR newsletterHERE.