Marijuana legalization not correlated with youth cannabis use, new study finds
A new study reports that there is no statistically significant evidence that adult-recreational marijuana laws and medical marijuana mandates enacted across the country in multiple states are correlated with youth marijuana use; no matter what marijuana strain or marijuana brand. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers analyzed data collected from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey between 1993 and 2017. They reported two very important findings.
First, medical marijuana programs were actually associated with the slightest reduction of cannabis use among the younger population. Second, adult-recreational marijuana laws did not show a statistically significant change in youth use patterns. The authors of the research concluded that there is little evidence that recreational marijuana laws and medical cannabis programs encourage use among younger people.
Data published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal in 2019 backs up their findings, reporting that marijuana regulation laws are actually associated with a decline in reported use among the youth. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has also reported that the number of young people admitted to drug treatments for marijuana-related offenses and issues has fallen in states that have legalized and regulated adult use.
Lawmakers and law enforcement have cited protecting children as a reason for continuing the current prohibition on marijuana sales and cultivation, concluding that more lenient cannabis laws will put our youth in harm's way. Researchers, however, continue to conclude that the correlation between legalization and increased youth marijuana use is not statistically significant.
Concern for the youth population is noble, but inconsistent with other laws currently on the books. There are substances legalized for medical purposes, such as opioids, that are far more deadly than marijuana. Cannabis can be used to treat many conditions, including pain, that are addressed by opioid use. This legal market gives children the same access to opioids as a medical marijuana program would cannabis. Young people are becoming addicted to pharmaceutical prescriptions, turning to more affordable options on the streets, and dying at alarming rates. If the goal for lawmakers is to protect children, they shouldn’t be focusing so much time and energy combatting cannabis.