New research recently published in the Monitoring the Future Panel Study Annual Report shows increased cannabis use among young Americans. The demographic includes everyone in the United States, ages 19 to 30. It does not include teenagers under 19.
Monitoring the Future started collecting data about adult substance use in 1988. The new release shows the highest cannabis use on record. The report shows that:
- 42.6% of young adults used marijuana at least once in 2021.
- 28.5% of young adults used marijuana at least once within the past 30 days.
- 10.8% of young adults say that they use marijuana daily (although daily is defined as at least 20 times within the last 30 days).
Outlets report that vaping marijuana declined at the beginning of the pandemic. The activity has now returned to its pre-pandemic level. Approximately 12% of young adults vaped cannabis in 2021.
Alcohol remains the most popular drug used by young adults in the U.S. 81.1% said they had used alcohol at least once within the last year. 66.3% said they had consumed alcohol within the last 30 days.
Where Do Young People Purchase Cannabis Products?
Unfortunately, these numbers likely mean that the U.S. still has a thriving black market that sells cannabis to underage consumers. The legal market has proven its ability to exclusively serve adults 21 and over.
In California, no legal cannabis dispensary served an underage consumer in 2021. Medical and recreational dispensaries have robust systems in place that prevent underage people from entering the premises or purchasing products. For example, most stores have a waiting room where customers can relax while employees verify their IDs. Once verified, the customers can enter the retail room, where a trained representative helps them choose products that match their needs. Customers do not reclaim their IDs until they leave the stores.
These systems ensure that all customers are of legal age. They also help prevent theft and burglary by minimizing the number of people in the retail space.
For comparison, a recent report shows that alcohol companies earned about $17.5 billion from underage drinkers in 2016. Some experts predict that underage consumers can successfully purchase alcohol 30% of the time. Several factors probably affect this, including poor security and lax standards at liquor stores. Cannabis dispensaries, however, have shown that they take the law much more seriously.
If adults under 21 are using cannabis products, they either purchase them from black market dealers or have older friends purchase them legally from a dispensary.
Is It a Problem When Young People Use Cannabis?
Some research shows that using cannabis before the brain is fully developed can lead to cognitive impairments. The same is true of other drugs, including alcohol.
Unfortunately, the human brain doesn’t finish developing until about 25 years old (although the exact age varies from person to person). Therefore, it isn’t ideal for 19-year-old consumers to use cannabis or other mind-altering substances.
The potential risks are reduced as people move closer toward full brain development. This makes it important for all retailers to follow the law and ensure that they only sell products to legal adults.