Legalizing Marijuana Doesn’t Increase Teen Usage, Study Shows

When some U.S. states began passing laws legalizing medical marijuana, many critics argued that it would lead to excessive use of the drug by teenagers. Now, new evidence suggests that’s not the case.

The research, which involved data associated with more than a million American teens in grades 8, 10, and 12, was collected over a 24-year period: from 1991 to 2014. Researchers asked teens if they had used marijuana over the previous month.

There were several important findings. First, researchers discovered that teens who lived in states where marijuana was legal were more likely to consume the drug when compared to teens living in states where it was not legal (16- versus 13-percent).

However, the statistic is somewhat misleading: researchers also found that the legalization of marijuana did not have any effect on this, meaning teens in states where marijuana had been legalized were more likely to access marijuana regardless of its legal status.

This is actually the third study showing that the legalization of medical marijuana does not have a visible impact on marijuana usage among teens. Deborah Hasin, an epidemiology professor and one of the study’s lead authors, believes its findings “provide the strongest evidence to date that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalizes medical marijuana.”

“Rather, up to now, in the states that passed medical marijuana laws, adolescent marijuana use was already higher than in other states,” she said.

Pediatrics professor Dr. Seth Ammerman, who did not participate in the study, called its findings “reassuring” as they reveal that “if a state does put in medical marijuana laws, [it’s] not going to significantly affect adolescent use.”

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