The director of NIDA explained to a Republican senator that, in the US, there’s no link between legal cannabis and an increase in teen usage.
Studies have shown over the years that marijuana legalization doesn’t have an impact on teen use. And while that isn’t exactly surprising news to those in the know, one U.S. senator was gobsmacked when faced with this (not even new) info.
The information was presented by Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Volkow was present at a hearing on Wednesday, where she provided some measured information on cannabis, highlighting some of its risks but making it clear that the data available doesn’t indicate that legal marijuana makes it more likely for teens to partake.
When asked about the legalization of marijuana, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy said that NIDA’s research shows evidence of marijuana harming the brains of adolescents.
“Definitely, this is one of the areas where we are most concerned when it comes to the legalization of marijuana” said Volkow, prompting Cassidy to pose that states with more liberal approaches to cannabis should have increased instances of mental illness in teens and young adults.
“In the United States there are no studies that have documented that,” said Volkow. “Specifically, marijuana legalization has not been associated with an increase in adolescent marijuana use.” Cassidy then said that states with relaxed blue laws for alcohol (restrictive laws on the consumption of alcohol) had more alcohol use by adolescents. “We are seeing significant increases in adults’ use of marijuana but not in adolescents, which is different from what you’re saying with the alcohol,” explained Volkow.
These surprising results that have also been used to stoke prohibitionist ideas are not surprising for marijuana advocates, who have long said that enabling a legal market for marijuana could limit instances of underage use. “These latest findings add to the growing body of scientific literature showing that marijuana regulation policies can be implemented in a manner that provides access for adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse,” said NORML’s deputy director Paul Armentano, in regards to the most recent study showing no link between legal cannabis and teen usage.
Cannabis use in teens has been linked with a propensity for mental health conditions. While this link is not understood (it’s unknown if cannabis can cause mental health diseases or if teens with a predisposition for these conditions tend to seek cannabis, etc.), it’s a subject that must be monitored and studied.