Young people who don’t use cannabis are becoming increasingly tolerant of their peers who do, according to a new study.
In an effort to track how patterns of consumption and attitudes toward cannabis are shifting in the age of legalization, researchers at Pennsylvania State University looked at nationally representative surveys of high school seniors from 2010 to 2016. They grouped respondents into five categories: intolerant nonusers, tolerant nonusers, disapproving users, experimenters, and marijuana enthusiasts.
The study, published the first week of October 2018 by the Journal of Adolescent Health, showed that while the prevalence of consumption hasn’t changed much, attitudes toward cannabis are gradually shifting. That’s according to self-reports from students selected to participate in Monitoring the Future, an ongoing study of behaviors and values of students and young adults in recent years.
Starting in 2014 — two years after Colorado and Washington fully legalized marijuana — the study published in October 2018 revealed that new trends have emerged. The number of high-school seniors who said they disapproved of cannabis consumption and didn’t use it themselves, the “intolerant nonusers”, had dropped. And at the same time, seniors became more likely to report that while they didn’t use cannabis personally, they didn’t disapprove of those who did experiment.
Younger People Show More Openness to Marijuana
The researchers didn’t speculate about possible factors driving this trend, but it seems to reflect broader shifts in attitudes toward cannabis that have been observed in numerous surveys. For example: A September 2018 Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of the country, 62 percent, now supports marijuana legalization, and 65 percent say smoking cannabis is “morally acceptable,” according to a June 2018 Gallup poll.
The Pennsylvania State University researchers cautioned that the declining belief that using cannabis is harmful among young people “may lead to higher prevalence of marijuana use in the future.”
“Thus, research incorporating indicators of risk perception are imminent, and additional work should continue to examine shifts in all three constructs (i.e., behaviors, attitudes, and risk perceptions) over time.”
But while that assumption might seem to make sense in theory, numerous studies — including a September 2018 Current Addiction Report meta-analysis of 55 separate studies — have contradicted it. Marijuana legalization does seem to cause people to perceive cannabis as less harmful, but the prevalence of youth marijuana consumption hasn’t risen in a statistically significant way after states legalize.
This article was originally published on Marijuana Moment