Studies: Changes In Marijuana’s Legal Status Not Associated With Increased Use By Young People

no_marijuanaChanges in marijuana’s legal status under state law is not associated with increased cannabis use or with its perceived availability by young people, according to pair of recently published studies.

In the first study, published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, researchers at Columbia University in New York surveyed the marijuana use habits of a national sampling of 1,310 adolescents between the years 2013 and 2015. Investigators assessed whether respondents from states with liberalized cannabis policies were more likely to acknowledge having consumed cannabis compared to those residing in jurisdictions where the substance remains criminally prohibited.

Authors reported that the study’s findings “failed to show a relationship between adolescents’ use of marijuana and state laws regarding marijuana use.” … [They] suggest that eased sanctions on adult marijuana use are not associated with higher prevalence rates of marijuana use among adolescents.”

In the second study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a team of investigators from Columbia University, the University of California at Davis, and Boston University examined the relationship between medical cannabis laws and the prevalence of marijuana availability and use by both adolescents and by those age 26 or older. Authors reported no changes over a nine-year period (2004 to 2013) with regard to the past-month prevalence of marijuana use by those ages 12 to 17 or by those between the ages of 18 and 25. Those age 25 and younger also experienced no change in their perception of marijuana’s availability. By contrast, self-reported marijuana use and availability increased among adults age 26 or older over this same time period.

The conclusions are similar to those of numerous separate studies reporting that changes in marijuana’s legal status are not associated with any uptick in teens’ use of the substance, such as those here, here, here, and here.

Abstracts of the two studies, “Is the Legalization of Marijuana Associated With Its Use by Adolescents?” and “State-level medical marijuana laws, marijuana use and perceived availability of marijuana among the general U.S. population,” appear online here and here.

14 thoughts

  1. Does it stand to reason that in the states where MJ medical access or legalization has occurred, along with upsurge of journalistic discussion, a corresponding increase in drug test measures and public scare warnings of drug testing (to Protect youth of course) also would have occurred? Higher level of threat and fear than before, lower level of daring to admit use.

  2. Here’s my concern about all this: are we really willing to tell teenagers that they, and they alone, are not allowed to have access to the most safe and effective medicine on the planet until they turn 21?


    Suppose they ask why? What would you tell them?

    Because it’s a vice? (Teen calls bullshit. Score: teen:1, adult:0)

    Because “reefer madness” is over, but just not for teenagers? (Teen calls bullshit. Score: teen:2, adult:0)

    Because “we still don’t know” what marijuana does to teenagers when they smoke it? (Teen says, “It gets you high.” Score: teen:3, adult:0)

    Because — oh, the teen left the room. Tired of listening to bullshit, and now no longer trusts you. And why should they? To borrow a quote from Bill Maher, “Scoreboard, Bitches!”

    I don’t criticize NORML for providing the information. But what is the implication here? That cannabis is bad for teenagers? Can anyone really back that up with facts?

    Let’s not be remembered for throwing the kids under the bus as legalization progresses. This issue relates to another important issue, namely, child-custody issues regarding marijuana.

    I say, Marijuana is family-friendly! Babies get their endocannabinoids from Mom’s breasts. Did you know that? Soothes baby, and bonds baby to mother. (I’m not a scientist, I heard it from a biologist at a pot rally.)

    If we don’t combat this paranoia about kids and pot, then what’s next: make breasts illegal because they get babies “high”? Sounds crazy, but then again, the whole thing is crazy, ain’t it? Crazy is what got us in this mess in the first place.

    1. Naa, were still spoon feedin the voters that are too lazy to research. These kids are smart. They know whats up. Just tellm the truth and for fu€ks sake letm smoke weed if we expect them to entertain a small town playing tackle football.

      1. Agreed, that’s exactly what we’re doing — spoonfeeding political reassurances to Moms and Dads, who might even smoke it themselves from time to time, but who still insist on treating it like a taboo activity, and who feel they have to hide it from the kids like a blowjob.

        But that’s a problem. We should be alleviating parents’ fears about kids and pot, not exacerbating them. My concern here has to do with marijuana and child-custody issues.

        The chickens will come home to roost when the prohibitionists come and take their kids away!

        They will state how important it is to keep pot away from kids. So important, they will say, that if parents aren’t taking this shit seriously, then they aren’t fit to be parents.

        But this is a fear, not a fact. We should not be feeding these fears. I think we need to set the record straight now, from a medical and scientific perspective, and from a political perspective. It’s time, and it cannot wait — these are our kids!

        It’s an issue which we have conceded politically, but which will have to be recovered if these child-custody issues are to be addressed. The kidnapping of our children must stop. A parent would rather endure any prison term, rather than have harm come to their kids. But we cannot let the prohibitionist extort us with our children any longer.

  3. “Here, here,” and hear-hear!
    It must be tough and lonely being a prohibitionist trying to continue propaganda these days. But “oh the children” followed by even a slight amount of research by any concerned parent reveals our greatest weapon; active longitudinal legalization in Colorado and Washington proving Patrick Kennedy and Sheldon Adelson wrong time and time again.
    We need to donate what we can to NORML to support this library collection of peer-reviewed controlled American studies of cannabis that Mr. Armentano has been carefully building for our legislators and citizen lobbyists to access. Finally, US Universities are finding the bravery to study the ethnobotany of whole plant cannabis and human behavior despite the immense prohibition of domestic research for so many decades. Finally, we have years of legalization to back up our claims with evidence.

    What’s more, the younger generation is registering to vote more than ever as a result of widespread legalization initiatives. Millions of inspired 18 year olds are already registered to vote here in Texas, and we wont even have any marijuana legislation till next year; but in a non voter initiative state, our message from local NORML chapters is getting out. Need marijuana legalization in Texas? Vote for your state legislature! Call your reps and ask them about their marijuana policy! Its the only way things will change without direct Democracy from voter initiatives.

  4. In the grand scheme of things, we have one more secret weapon besides years of effective legalization initiatives; All these polls being conducted on marijuana and elections don’t take into account the millions of new, young registered voters who generally dont answer the polls or fill out surveys… but are remarkably drawn to voting booths if they believe marijuana legalization is at stake. And Republicans in particular should take note because the GOP has painted themselves as the anti-everything-including-marijuana-party despite their own constituency. And the first time someone votes can determine the party they will long represent. There are also millions of potential latino voters waiting for a backlog in citizenship who will be motivated to vote even during the next Congressional elections when we need it most because they will be voting for the first time, aching that the bureocratic delays denied them to vote for Trump. They are another secret weapon for marijuana legalization as many latinos either dont fill out surveys or when given the opportunity they lie and say the support prohibition because they dont trust the surveyors or the information getting to the wrong people. But when given the opportunity, latinos who have now been naturalized citizens no longer fear the crutch of prohibitionist employers and vote more Democratically and for ending prohibition. If Texas doesnt turn blue this week, it will by 2020.

    1. Correction: clearly what I meant to say was that pending delayed naturalization, new “latino voters will be aching they were denied to vote AGAINST Trump…” I’m sure everyone caught that but I thought Id clarify nonetheless.
      Anyway, this is relevant because, especially as California legalizes, latinos will see first hand the benefits of marijuana legalization and US drug policy has on all societies and will be more emboldended to make millions more residents into pro-legalization, voting citizens.

      1. Why all the segregation by Latinos? If your Latino then go to Mexico and vote. This America, get it.

      2. Selective reading, huh? Or worse, you woke up and thought you had a sense of humor… either way, how tragic. And segregating? “If youre latino go to Mexico and vote?” I know people with severe head injuries and advanced dimentia who are smarter than you.
        So let’s read it again.
        Why is it that there exists this large portion of uneducated voters that crawled out of a rock somewhere in Wyoming or West Virginia that can’t seem to grasp that there are latino American citizens? Representing a people who are disproportionately affected by the drug war, all you are revealing about yourself is that you are a fu€king idiot. When I was posting how latinos are helping marijuana policy, you decide to behave like a useless douchebag and embarrass your name on this blog. Its people like you that have no idea what an American latino is or probably what Mexico is really like that make me glad I won’t find you on one of my favorite Mexican beaches. Now go back and crawl under your rock; were trying to legalize marijuana here and youre not helping.

  5. I’m around young people these days. Everybody smokes and sans the paranoia and disdain for government intransigence that grips someone my age. They just don’t care about the government.

  6. When I first used cannabis as a 15 year old teen, 45 years ago, I didn’t even know it was illegal. Where I grew up it was just the thing to do if you wanted to be one of the cool kids. I was much more concerned about my parents, both hardcore cigarette smokers, finding out!

    I am quite sure that once legalization happens that the same people who would have used it anyway still will, and those that would not probably won’t either. Even if they do, it just isn’t harmful enough for the justice system to ruin people’s lives over.

    Seriously, after using cannabis for 45 years,

    I can honestly say that it has helped me to live a better and healthier life than I would have had otherwise. Medically speaking, at an absolute minimum, the stress reduction that cannabis can offer is a very healthy thing for any and all consumers. Medical experts all agree, 100% of them, that stress is harmful to one’s health. So, if cannabis reduces stress that is justification enough for using it!

    1. Miles,
      When I was 18 I met this chick that chain smoked all the time and got me smokin a pack a day. After deliberately avoiding marijuana as I falsely believed it would “kill ya brain cells” as Morgan Freeman put it in the movie Lean On Me, I smoked some weed that year.
      I couldn’t smoke another cancer stick. Suddenly, I could smell the cigarette. I could TASTE it. Funny thing is I didn’t even smoke another joint for six months, but something about that ONE joint made me rediscover my sense of taste and smell. 20 years later, I never smoked another tobacco cigarette again, and never craved it either.
      And it cured my depression! Bonus.

  7. Bottom line is teens have less access to marijuana in states that legalize, debunking one of prohibitionists favorite lies, that legalization will “increase teen use.”
    Any of us who have consumed marijuana since their teens knows if anything it increases IQ if used responsibly. Especially nowadays that the weed we do have access to is increasingly cleaner, unlaced with crack or chemicals and free of pesticides and perfumes or molds.
    The definition of responsible consumption for anyone studying is to get up early for a jog, excercise, farm or ranch work, and get high with a nice active sativa like Trainwreck with pinenes before a commute to school so we have an hour or two to finish being high before studies commence and still enjoy some activity. Reward your research with a nice stoned lunch and keep an alert sativa so we can get back to creative work and reflect upon our studies and take notes while the body metabolizes and digests. This is a great time to create an outline for a project, then begin editing, citing and completing a project after the weed wears off. Finally, at the end of the day, another round of physical activity, a sport perhaps, cupled with a good indica for a full body high.
    This way we can enjoy the best of the day while keeping focused and unimpaired during our study time, yet benefit from the stimulation and neurogenesis of regular consumption. Furthermore, consuming a good indica during and after a contact sport can protect the brain and body from injury and at least for me, helps to relax muscles and dilate blood vessels increasing respiration, relaxation and a desire to stretch.
    In conclusion, well regulated marijuana consumption and strain selection can create neurogenesis, increase happiness, productivity, creativity, balance our metabolism and rewards system by creating homeostasis in the endocannabinoid system.

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