By now, any remaining dogwhistles of marijuana legalization potentially creating unfettered cannabis access for teenagers should lower the volumes of their shrieks. Both Washington and Denver seen teenage marijuana usage rates drops in the years following recreational marijuana legalization. Now, a study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests marijuana legalization discourages teenage use.
“Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth,” researchers concluded. “Moreover, the estimates…showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes.”
The study’s authors focused on data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its Youth Risk Behavior survey to conduct their research. By analyzing the responses from over 1.4 million students between 1993 and 2017, they were able to recognize how teens used marijuana before and after 27 states passed marijuana legislation, both for medical and recreational use.
Once medical marijuana became legal and regulated in the 27 states researchers focused on, teen cannabis use didn’t really change. In recreational states, however, teens who admitted to smoking weed in the prior 30 days lowered by 8%. Teens saying they consumed marijuana 10 or more times dropped 9%, meanwhile.
“Just to be clear we found no effect on teen use following legalization for medical purposes, but evidence of a possible reduction in use following legalization for recreational purposes,” said Mark Anderson, lead author on the study and associate professor at Montana State University.
“Because our study is based on more policy variation than prior work, we view our estimates as the most credible to date in the literature,” he said.
One theory posited by researchers in the study as to why legalizing marijuana saw static or lowered changes in teenage marijuana use is because “it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.” Such findings are consistent with previous studies regarding the relationship between legalization and teen marijuana use.
As more states open up, it is data will be clear if marijuana legalization discourages teenage use.