Debunking a common argument against any legalization of marijuana, a new study finds teens don’t use more in states that allow its medical use.
“For now, there appears to be no basis for the argument that legalizing medical marijuana has increased teens’ use of the drug,” said Deborah Hasin, PhD, professor of Epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School and senior author of the study.
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In conducting the study, published in the medical journal Addiction, researchers combined analyses from major US studies dating as far back as 1991. The results showed no “significant” changes in increase or decrease of teens’ use.
It focused on teen use in the month before and after laws changed, and compared the data to states where weed remains illegal.
Hasin said the study is far from definite due to the patchwork nature of current state-by-state versus the federal government legal framework: “We may find that the situation changes as commercialized markets for medical marijuana develop and expand, and as states legalize recreational marijuana use.”
The figures about teen use run counter to other ages, Vice reported in December.
It’s also not true among all age groups. As anti-legalization activist Kevin Sabet points out, weed use among young adults 18-25 has increased since 2014, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
And the findings may not apply to adults. “Although we found no significant effect on adolescent marijuana use, existing evidence suggests that adult recreational use may increase after medical marijuana laws are passed,” Hasin said. “The $8 billion cannabis industry anticipates tripling by 2025. Obtaining a solid evidence base about harmful as well as beneficial effects of medical and recreational marijuana laws on adults is crucial given the intense economic pressures to expand cannabis markets.”
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Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states. California became the first state to allow its use in 1996