Even in the face of snowballing support for marijuana legalization across the country, it appears that young adults are trying pot at decreasing rates.
According to a survey conducted by Gallup, the percentage of adults ages 18-29 that reported trying marijuana has dipped significantly, sinking from 56 percent in 1985 to 36 percent in 2013—a drop of 36 percent. The percentage of all adults that reported trying pot remained relatively steady, with a minor increase from 33 percent in 1985 to 38 percent this year.
The dip reported by the poll could be attributed to a number of different causes. One explanation is the increase of anti-drug advocacy targeted to young people in the years since the Reagan administration. Another more frightening possibility is that the rise in prescription pill abuse has taken the place of marijuana usage among young adults. According to a study by the University of Colorado, Americans ages 15-27 now abuse prescription painkillers at a rate that is 40 percent higher than previous generations.
“Prescription drug use is the next big epidemic,” said Richard Miech, the scientist in charge of the study. “Everyone in this field has recognized that there is a big increase in the abuse of nonmedical analgesics, but our study shows that it is accelerating among today’s generation of adolescents.”
Still others contend that the Gallup results are simply false, as the poll relied on self-reports and thus may not accurately reflect actual usage of the drug. A survey released by Pew in April showed that 56 percent of adults ages 18-29 had tried pot—a difference so significant that it casts both polls in a somewhat questionable light.
Supporters of marijuana legalization argue that the Gallup poll is evidence that legalization will not equate to increased usage, as many states now allow medical marijuana use and two have legalized the drug for recreational purposes.