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If there’s one thing that opponents of legalized medical marijuana love to argue, it’s that legalization will dramatically increase marijuana use among teens. Guess what? They’re wrong.

Marijuana Use Among Teens has Decreased Since Legalization

A study recently published in The Lancet Psychiatry performed by Deborah Hasin, Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University in New York, reviewed over 24 years of data from over a million teenagers in 48 states. It found that, contrary to popular belief, legalized marijuana showed no evidence of increasing teen use of cannabis.

At the time of the study, 21 states had legalized marijuana for medicinal use. Researchers found there was no evidence whatsoever to prove that legalization had led to increased cannabis use by teens.

This recent study supports evidence gathered from a 2013 Colorado Health Kids Colorado Survey as well. The report from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment illustrated that the use of marijuana amongst high school students dropped from 22% in 2011 to 20% in 2013. Marijuana use among teens

Click here to view the full PDF infographic on teen use of marijuana in Colorado.

If you look at California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, marijuana use is actually less prevalent amongst teens than it was before it was made legal for medicine.

Marijuana Use Among Teens Continues Whether it’s Legal or Not

This isn’t to say teenagers aren’t smoking weed. They are. Teenagers will continue to smoke (legal or not) just as they have for decades. While the use of cannabis amongst teens is more common in states that have passed medical laws since 2014, researchers haven’t found an increase in use with teens in medically legal states.

The Lancet study mentioned earlier could be a game-changer for opponents of medical cannabis. According to Deborah Hasin who conducted the study, it provides “the strongest evidence to date that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalizes medical marijuana.”

Those who have been so concerned about a rampant rise in the use of marijuana use amongst teens can finally relax. This study is providing what proponents for medical marijuana have known for years. Just because weed is made legal, it doesn’t automatically mean teens are going to run right out and score a bag of herb.

Clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Seth Ammerman was not part of the study but stated that these findings were comforting. He believes the study exemplifies that:

“if a state does put in medical marijuana laws, that’s not going to significantly affect adolescent use.”

Use of all Illicit Substances has Declined Among Teens

Illicit substance use among teensA study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan released in late 2014 showed a decrease in teen substance abuse across the board, including not just marijuana, but alcohol and cigarettes as well. While the use of alcohol and cigarettes decreased more than marijuana, there was still a slight decrease in the use of marijuana with teenagers. The surge of marijuana use with teens certainly wasn’t seen like so many opponents predicted it would be.

Another interesting take on the whole business of teens and marijuana use is that in the early 1990s when the war on drugs was fighting a losing battle, teen use of marijuana was actually higher than it is now. It didn’t start to decrease until the late 1990s when more states began to legalize marijuana for medical use.

Is there a connection here? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Those who have feared that legal medical marijuana would substantially increase teen use and cause a whole new case of reefer madness can finally relax. With more and more studies proving the opposite of what they proclaim, they’ll have to pick another (losing) battle to fight.


Works Cited:

  1. Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the USA from 1991 to 2014: results from annual, repeated cross-sectional surveys
  2. Healthy Kids Colorado Survey and Smart Source Information
  3. National Survey on Drug Use and Health
  4. California Healthy Kids Survey
  5. State Medical Marijuana Laws and Adolescent Marijuana Use in The United States: 1991 – 2014
  6. Medical Marijuana Laws Don’t Increase Teen Use
  7. Teen use of any illicit drug other than marijuana at new low, same true for alcohol
  8. The Growth in Marijuana Use Among American Youths During the 1990s and the Extent of Blunt Smoking

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