The enactment of statewide laws legalizing and regulating the use and sale of marijuana by adults is not associated with an uptick in cannabis use by young people, according to data published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
A team of investigators affiliated with Boston College analyzed marijuana use data from a nationally representative sample of more than one million high-school students over an 18-year period.
Authors “found no evidence that RML [recreational marijuana legalization] was associated with [an] increased likelihood or level of marijuana use among adolescents. Rather, among adolescents who reported any use of marijuana in the past month, the frequency of use declined by 16 percent after RML.”
Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “These latest findings add to the growing body of scientific literature showing that legalization policies can be implemented in a manner that provides access for adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse. Furthermore, these findings stand in sharp contrast to the sensational claims often made by legalization opponents, claims that thus far have proven to be baseless.”
Data compiled last week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of adolescents admitted to drug treatment programs for marijuana-related issues has fallen precipitously in states that have legalized and regulated its adult-use.
In addition, a 2019 study published in JAMA Pediatrics similarly concluded: “Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth. Moreover, the estimates reported … showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes. This latter result is consistent … with the argument that it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.”
Additional information regarding marijuana use patterns among young people is available from the NORML fact-sheet here.