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New Study Shows Legalizing Medical Marijuana Does Not Increase Teen Use Of Cannabis

Anti-legalization advocates regularly decry the stimulating effect legalization could, purportedly, have on teen marijuana use. Even the American College of Pediatrics claims marijuana use by adolescents has "grown steadily as more states enact various decriminalization laws" - although, they concede, "It is unclear [...] whether this trend indicates a causal relationship or mere correlation." The reasoning that more impressionable young people will experiment with a drug if it's legal isn't, on the surface, that unreasonable, given the prevalence of both alcohol and tobacco use among teens.

The thing is, it doesn't seem to be accurate. According to a new study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, concerns about young people flocking to cannabis after legalization are overblown. Studies analyzing results from the US National Survey on Drug Use in Households and other national data have "shown no increase or even a decrease in youth marijuana use after the passage of medical marijuana laws," according to the researchers in the International Journal of Drug Policy study.

Concerns that legalization increases teen use "unfounded"

That's not to say there are no teens in legal states lighting up.

"While the study's authors acknowledged that many medical marijuana states have greater overall rates of youth cannabis use compared to non-medical states," according to a NORML press release, "they affirmed that these jurisdictions already possessed elevated use rates prior to changes in law, and that the laws' enactment did not play a role in influencing youth use patterns."

Their findings echo that of a 2015 study published in The Lancet, which looked at the link between state medical marijuana laws and rates of self-reported adolescent marijuana use. No link was found between changes in medical marijuana laws and increased teen cannabis use - and, among younger teens, consumption rates actually went down significantly.

With legalization still in its infancy, it remains to be seen how medical marijuana laws will effect youth rates of use in the long term. For now, the findings seem to concur with those of The Lancet: "concerns that increased marijuana use is an unintended effect of state marijuana laws seem unfounded."


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