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Letters to the Editor, Chicago Sun-Times

Sometimes it is necessary to watch the watchdog.

The Better Government Association recently got it wrong when they said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy falsely claimed teen cannabis use has declined in states that have legalized cannabis. (“Fact-check: Democrat blowing smoke with claim of decreased teen marijuana use”)

In fact, Rep. Cassidy is right.

Between 2011 and 2017, nationwide cannabis use among ninth through 12th-graders decreased from 23.1% to 19.8%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This decline happened as nine states and D.C. legalized recreational adult-use cannabis.

When you look at these nine states and D.C. specifically, teen use of cannabis is down in six of them. Two states show no change, and two show slight increases. Let’s look deeper into the data, which is available here:

    • – In D.C., usage among 12- to 17-year-olds dropped from 10.6% to 8.3% between 2013 and 2017.
      – In Oregon, usage among eighth graders dropped from 9.7% to 6.7%.
      – In Washington State, usage among eighth-graders dropped from 9.5% to 6.4% between 2010 and 2016; among 10th graders, usage dropped from 20% to 17.2%; and among 12th graders there was no change.
    • – In Colorado, usage among ninth- to 12th-graders dropped from 22% to 19.4% between 2011 and 2017.

As physicians, we follow the best scientific evidence, not cherry-picked data. The people of Illinois deserve to know the facts. It’s time for Illinois to join with the growing number of states that recognize that the legalization, regulation and taxation of adult-use recreational cannabis promotes public safety, while its prohibition hinders it.

David L. Nathan, MD, DFAPA, founder and board president, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation

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