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Study: Medical Cannabis Laws Not Associated With Increased Use By Adolescents

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Providence, RI: The enactment of state laws legalizing the physician-recommended use of cannabis therapy is not associated with increased levels of marijuana use by young people, according to data published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University assessed the impact of medical cannabis laws by examining trends in reported adolescent drug use over a 20-year period in a cohort of states before and after legalization. Researchers compared these trends to geographically matched states that had not adopted medical marijuana laws.

Authors reported "no statistically significant differences in marijuana use before and after policy change for any state pairing," and acknowledged that some states that had adopted medical cannabis laws experienced a decrease in adolescent's self-reported use of the plant. "In the regression analysis, we did not find an overall increased probability of marijuana use related to the policy change," they stated.

Investigators concluded, "This study did not find increases in adolescent marijuana use related to legalization of medical marijuana. ... This suggests that concerns about ‘sending the wrong message' may have been overblown. ... Our study ... may provide some reassurance to policy makers who wish to balance compassion for individuals who have been unable to find relief from conventional medical therapies with the safety and well-being of youth."

A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health similarly concluded that the passage of statewide medical marijuana has had no "statistically significant ... effect on the prevalence of either lifetime or 30-day marijuana use" by adolescents residing in those states.

A 2012 study by researchers at McGill University in Montreal reported: "[P]assing MMLs (medical marijuana laws) decreased past-month use among adolescents ... and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use. ... [These] estimates suggest that reported adolescent marijuana use may actually decrease following the passing of medical marijuana laws."

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, "The impact of state marijuana legislation on adolescent marijuana use," appears online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.







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