Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Don’t Contribute to Teen Drug Use

A popular argument by anti-marijuana advocates is that legalization of the drug for medicinal purposes poses a significant danger to our youth, and particularly to teenagers.
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The theory goes that legal accessibility for ailing adults will translate to easy illicit accessibility for teens. It’s been the basis upon which both federal and state law enforcement officials, politicians and others have tried to force medical marijuana dispensaries out of business.

Now, a new study, published by the American Journal of Public Health, flat-out debunks this theory, and our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers wanted to provide a highlight of these findings.

Researchers from the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville analyzed information culled from the youth Risk Behavior Survey for Michigan, Montana, Delaware and Rhode Island over the course of eight years. Each state had passed laws approving medicinal marijuana use and distribution prior to that time frame.

What the researchers discovered was that medical marijuana laws had no measurable impact on adolescent marijuana use in the first several years after such laws were passed.

This research backs earlier studies that have reached similar conclusions, serving to directly contradict fiery public statements issued by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and others, spewing the false belief that medical marijuana is somehow responsible for higher marijuana consumption among teens in the U.S.

Last year, researchers from three higher education institutions – the University of Oregon, the University of Colorado and Montana State University – teamed up to analyze the correlation between medical marijuana laws in those states and self-reported marijuana use among high school students. Researchers in that case too looked at Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted between 1993 and 2009. Those were the years during which more than a dozen states enacted legislation approving the cultivation and use of marijuana for medical reasons.

They too found absolutely zero evidence that state medical marijuana laws had an impact on teen drug use. Researchers clearly stated that the results do not line up with the hypothesis that medical marijuana legalization somehow perpetuates an increase of marijuana use among young people. In fact, the researchers said the effect may actually be the opposite. With access legalized and closely monitored, the drug was less widely available on the streets. What’s more, use of other illicit drugs, including cocaine and alcohol (among those under the age of 21) was actually down in those states.

That same finding was also reported in another study last year conducted by scientists at McGill University in Montreal. The results, later published in the Annals of Epidemiology, reflected a decrease of illicit drug use among high school students in states with legalized medical cannabis.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Effects of State Medical Marijuana Laws on Adolescent Marijuana Use, June 2013 Issue, American Journal of Public Health
More Blog Entries:
California Marijuana Legislation Rejected by Lawmakers, June 9, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog