Legalization has no effect on teen pot use – study

Reuters/Fredy Builes
Despite fears that legalizing marijuana would lead to more use among teens, new data on 1 million teenagers shows that pot use has not increased in US states where the drug is now permitted.

Over a 24-year period, 1 million teens were asked in national, annual self-administered surveys whether they had used marijuana in the previous 30 days. The research involved teens aged 13 to 18 from the 48 contiguous states. Scientists sought to answer two questions: whether pot use had increased from the time states passed medical marijuana laws up to 2014, and whether the risk of teens commencing marijuana use in the first place changed after passage of the laws.

Marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalizes medical marijuana,” said Dr. Deborah Hasin, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, and the study’s author, according to the Guardian. “Rather, up to now, in the states that passed medical marijuana laws, adolescent marijuana use was already higher than in other states.”

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The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry, also found that among the youngest students surveyed, eighth graders, marijuana use had dropped. Hasin suggested that older students might still view the drug as taboo and recreational, while younger teens are more adjusted to the idea of marijuana as a medical drug.

Controversy still swirls around the use of medical and recreational marijuana, however. Concern has been raised over reports of adverse effects from pot use later in life, as well as dependence and reliance on public health programs for assistance in combating addiction.

Because early adolescent use of marijuana can lead to many long-term harmful outcomes, identifying the factors that actually play a role in adolescent use should be a high research priority,” said Dr. Hasin.

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Since 1996, 23 US states and Washington, DC have approved the use of medical marijuana, with Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and DC also approving its recreational use. These laws have helped convey the idea that marijuana is now acceptable, but the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, in the same category as heroin and LSD. This means federal authorities consider it to have a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.