While marijuana use by teens has been increasing since 2005, an analysis of data from 1993 through 2009 by economists at three universities has found no evidence to link the legalization of medical marijuana to increased use of the drug among high school students.
"There is anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana is finding its way into the hands of teenagers, but there's no statistical evidence that legalization increases the probability of use," said Daniel I. Rees, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver.
Rees co-authored the study with Benjamin Hansen, assistant professor of economics at the University of Oregon and D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University.
They examined the relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and marijuana consumption using nationally representative data on high school students from the Youth Risky Behavior Survey (YRBS) for the years 1993 through 2009, a period when 13 states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, legalized medical marijuana. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now have such laws with legislation pending in seven others.
"This result is important given that the federal government has recently intensified its efforts to close medical marijuana dispensaries," said Hansen, who studies risky behaviors of adolescents and adults. "In fact, the data often showed a negative relationship between legalization and marijuana use."
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