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Study: Washington Teens Used Less Marijuana Following Legalization

Rand Corporation took a look at a recent study on teen cannabis use since Washington state legalized weed and found that better data was needed to follow youth use. However, usage amongst 8th and 10th graders did go down and use in 12th graders stayed the same. The percentages weren’t staggering, but substantial nonetheless.

A research letter published in JAMA Pediatrics states that representative surveys should be used to determine increases, decreases or steady usage of cannabis among teens. “The effect of legalization on youth marijuana use is an important public health question that needs to be revisited using a multitude of data sets,” said Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, co-author of the study as well as co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

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“This work underscores the importance of understanding who is being captured in each data set so we can better understand how representative the sample is when trying to draw policy conclusions from the analysis,” she continued.

It is the ever present question among many cannabis curious or even doubters, “What about the children?” and it is a valid concern. Worried parents have every right to be wary about what their children are ingesting and at what age. These new figures show that teen use goes down in legal states, or at least in Washington, as compared to non-legal states.

Prevalence fell from 2014 to 2016 compared with 2010 to 2012, dropping 2.5 points in 8th graders and 2 points in 10th graders. Researchers and many teachers and parents see these results as encouraging, though they are reticent to say definitively that legalization is fully responsible for the drops.

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“These findings do not provide a final answer about how legalization ultimately may influence youth marijuana usage. A variety of factors may influence the behavior of adolescents and those factors are likely to influence behaviors in different ways over time,” said Pacula.

Researchers also say that the commercialization of cannabis is more likely to influence teen usage than actual laws. Marijuana has been readily available for decades, despite its long history of prohibition. If teens wanted to use more, they would, but for now at least it seems that some of the mystique may be wearing off or that at least pot use is in decline in the younger population.

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