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Cannabis Legalization Does Not Increase Teen Use: Study

Folks who try to tell you legalizing weed leads to increased teen use basically don’t know what they’re talking about

Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG

Youth marijuana use doesn’t increase after legalization for medical or recreational use, researchers concluded in a scientific journal on Tuesday. Changing the pot laws instead has an impact on teen Cannabis consumption that is “statistically indistinguishable from zero,” they found.

Researchers found recreational Cannabis legalization “was not associated with current marijuana use or frequent marijuana use.”

In fact, it appears that establishing certain regulations actually leads to lower marijuana use among adolescents, reports Marijuana Moment. That finding, of course, directly rebuts anti-legalization arguments commonly made by prohibitionists.

“[M]edical marijuana law (MML) adoption was associated with a 6% decrease in the odds of current marijuana use and a 7% decrease in the odds of frequent marijuana use,” researchers found.

Analysis Published in JAMA

The analysis appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It examines federal Youth Risk Behavior Survey data from 1993-2019 in 10 medical or adult-use states. It corroborates existing studies on the impact of marijuana reform on youth usage with similar conclusions.

Researchers examined looked at both recreational marijuana laws (“RMLs”) and medical marijuana laws (“MMLs”).

The study received partial funding through a federal National Institutes of Health. It also found youth marijuana consumption actually decreased where recreational legalization had been in place two years or more.

“Consistent with estimates from prior studies, there was little evidence that RMLs or MMLs encourage youth marijuana use,” the researchers said. “As more post-legalization data become available, researchers will be able to draw firmer conclusions about the relationship between RMLs and adolescent marijuana use.”

Advocates Not Surprised

The researchers didn’t attempt to explain why youth might not be using Cannabis more frequently in states that have legalized. But the trend doesn’t surprise many advocates. They have long reasoned that regulated sales would reduce the illicit market and youth access.

“This study provides additional evidence that legalizing and regulating cannabis does not result in increased rates of use among teens,” said Matthew Schweich of the Marijuana Policy Project. “In fact, it suggests that cannabis legalization laws might be decreasing teen use.”

“That makes sense because legal cannabis businesses are required to strictly check the IDs of their customers,” Schweich said. “The unregulated market, which prohibitionists are effectively trying to sustain, lacks such protections.”

Even The NIDA’s Volkow Has To Admit It

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow also conceded in a recent interview that legalization has not led to increased youth use despite her prior fears. It’s telling that even Volkow, a notoriously anti-marijuana media figure for years, eventually had to acknowledge the data.

Volkow said she was “expecting the use of marijuana among adolescents would go up.”

But she admitted that overall, “it hasn’t.”

It was reform advocates like Nadelmann who were “right” about the impact of the policy change on youth, she conceded.

A federal report released earlier this year also challenged the prohibitionist narrative that state-level Cannabis legalization leads to more teen use.

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics analyzed youth surveys of high school students from 2009 to 2019. NCES concluded there’s “no measurable difference” of those in grades 9-12 who reported consuming marijuana in the past 30 days.

There was “no change” in the rate of current marijuana use among high school students from 2009-2019, the survey found. When analyzed using a quadratic change model, however, lifetime Cannabis consumption decreased during the same period.

Study After Study Shows No Increase In Teen Use

A federally funded Monitoring the Future report released last year found marijuana consumption among adolescents “did not significantly change in any of the three grades for lifetime use, past 12-month use, past 30-day use, and daily use from 2019-2020.”

Another study released by Colorado officials last year showed that youth marijuana consumption in the state “has not significantly changed since legalization” in 2012, though methods of consumption are diversifying.

An official with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s National Marijuana Initiative went even further last year. He admitted that, for reasons that are unclear, youth consumption of marijuana “is going down” in Colorado and other legalized states and that it’s “a good thing” even if “we don’t understand why.”

Past studies looking at teen use rates after legalization have found declines in consumption or no evidence showing any increase.

A 2019 study using data from Washington state, determining that declining youth marijuana consumption could be due to replacing the illicit market with regulations or the “loss of novelty appeal among youths.” Another study from last year showed declining youth marijuana consumption in legalized states but didn’t suggest possible explanations.

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