Recreational marijuana is now legal in California. But that doesn’t mean it’s Ok for teens to use it for recreation, as there is evidence it can have negative health effects – and of course there is the risk of impaired driving. Although some marijuana advocates downplay these concerns as “Reefer Madness” ridiculousness, the reality is that if the marijuana industry is going to garner legitimacy, there needs to be a concerted effort to keep cannabis away from children who don’t have a medical reason to be taking it.
Part of the concern is that teens do not view marijuana as harmful as they once did. Research at the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program indicated that the harmfulness perception of marijuana among eighth-graders fell by 14 percent in Washington state since the drug was legalized. It fell by 16 percent among those in 10th grade. In states where marijuana has not (yet) been legalized, perceptions of the plant’s harmfulness fell at much lower rates, between 5 and 7 percent.
Still, there is competing evidence about whether this translates to more teens actually using the drug for fun. For example, the U.C. Davis study indicated marijuana use by Washington’s eighth-graders spiked 2 percent since legalization, while increasing 4 percent among 10th-graders. In non-legal states, marijuana use fell by about 1 percent. However, a study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment indicated the percentage of high school students there who used marijuana was actually smaller than the national average – 21.2 percent in the previous 30 days (down a percentage point since before legalization) while the nationwide rate of teen marijuana use was a bit higher at 21.7 percent. The department concluded that “marijuana use (among teens) has not increased since legalization.”
The Marijuana Policy Project advocates say the Colorado research clearly debunks the myth that more teens use marijuana when it’s legal for adults. But that doesn’t mean continuing to make efforts to reduce the risk of underage use is a worthless cause. In fact, our L.A. marijuana lawyers are of the mind that the more that can be done by those in the marijuana industry to shut out underage users, the more credibility the industry has, and the less ammunition detractors have. And we certainly shouldn’t think, particularly with this new federal administration, that the fight for marijuana rights is completely over.
It should be noted that the U.C. Davis study did concede that in looking at teen marijuana use in Colorado, there did not appear to be any significant drop or uptick in teen use or perceptions since legalization. That would indicate to use that there could be something else going on in Washington. Researchers opine the reason is that Colorado was more pot-permissive even before legalization, but researchers didn’t present evidence to back that assertion. Of course, before legalization, marijuana possession, use and distribution were limited to those with medical conditions, and those who sold or distributed drugs to minors – or even within a certain radius of a school or daycare – faced much harsher penalties.
It should be noted that Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21-and-older, has a provision that specifically allocated $10 million every year for youth substance abuse programs. That contribution won’t begin until the middle of 2018, which is when the state will begin issuing marijuana sales licenses.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Marijuana is legal in California. Now politicians and pot pushers need to help keep it out of kids’ hands, Jan. 5, 2017, By George Skelton, The Los Angeles Times
More Blog Entries:
Report: Legal Marijuana Sales Could be Delayed Until 2019, Jan. 12, 2017, L.A. Marijuana Lawyer Blog