Study: Marijuana Legalization Not Associated With Greater Teen Access

Baltimore, MD: Changes in Washington state’s marijuana laws permitting the adult use and retail sale of cannabis are not associated with greater access among teens, according to data presented this week at the Pediatric Academic Society’s 2016 annual meeting.

An international team of investigators from the United States and Canada assessed adolescents’ self-reported ability to access cannabis during the years immediately before and after the enactment of Washington’s legalization law. Researchers reported no change in teens’ perceived ability to readily access marijuana.

“Despite concerns that legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults in 2012 may also increase teens’ ability to access marijuana, preliminary analyses of state-wide HYS (Healthy Youth Survey) data suggest otherwise,” they concluded.

The findings are similar to those published last fall by the Washington State Institute of Public Policy which reported that adolescents’ use of cannabis fell slightly between the years 2002 and 2012, while a greater percentage of eighth graders reported that it had become harder for them to obtain the plant.

Previous studies assessing the impact of medical marijuana legalization have failed to find evidence that the liberalization of cannabis laws has resulted in
any increase in its consumption by adolescents.

Most recently, an April 2016 review paper published in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry concluded, “There is no conclusive evidence to show that policies in favor of medical and recreational cannabis use increase uptake by young people.”

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: An abstract of the study, “Adolescents’ ease of access to marijuana before and after legalization of marijuana in Washington state,” appears online at: