One of main arguments from prohibitionists regarding medical marijuana is that legalization will lead to a correlation of children having more access to the drug. But so far, research by major universities and government agencies have proven the hypothesis wrong. A recent study published in July 2014 by the non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research of Cambridge, Massachusetts found no increase in teen cannabis use in the 16 states that had legalized cannabis from 1993 through 2011. Since that time six more states and the nation’s capital have legalized medical marijuana.
Several Studies Find No Uptick in Teen Pot Use
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado, the University of Oregon and Montana State University. The paper was titled “Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use,” by D. Mark Anderson, Benjamin Hansen and Daniel I. Rees. They looked at data from national and state studies on marijuana use from the following sources:
- Youth Risk Behavior Surveys
- National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997
- Treatment Episode Data Set
An earlier analysis in the Journal of Adolescent Health published in April 2014 also found no increase in teen use in states where cannabis has been legalized. That survey was conducted by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University. They compared teen marijuana use trends between states that had legalized the drugs and states that had not. Another study that appeared in the American Journal of Public Health the previous year came to a similar conclusion that teen marijuana use had not increased in states where medical marijuana had been legalized. Yet another study by McGill University researchers in Montreal published in 2012 actually noted a decrease in adolescent pot use after the passage of laws allowing medical marijuana use.
Teen Marijuana Stats
At some point the argument that cannabis legalization will lead to an increase in teen use will likely disappear from the debate since a steady stream of evidence is showing that it’s a red herring with no credible support. Even a federal study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that marijuana use among high school students remained stagnant from 2011 through 2013. The organization reported that the peak year of teens using the drug was in 1999 with 27 percent saying they had recently used marijuana. By 2011 the rate had declined to 23.1 percent and by 2013 the rate was nearly flat at 23.4 percent. These results were published in Huffington Post in June 2014.
The same analysis, called the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS) study, has also revealed that teen alcohol and cigarette use had been falling since 1991. While there haven’t been a lot of studies yet to draw definitive conclusions, it appears that there’s no reason for anyone to be alarmed about marijuana legalization, especially when significantly more high school seniors consume alcohol (39 percent), which even President Obama has stated is more dangerous than marijuana.
The attitude among teens about whether or not marijuana use is harmful has changed in recent years as the drug begins to get wider media coverage and the medical community has shown growing support for it as a legitimate treatment. In late 2013 a government study called the Monitoring the Future survey reviewed data from over 40,000 U.S. high school students at 389 public and private schools and found that 39.5 percent of high school seniors agreed that regular pot use is harmful, which was a decrease from 44.1 percent the previous year.
While 23 states have moved to legalize medical marijuana since 1996, only two states – Colorado and Washington – allow recreational use of the drug. Yet even in Colorado, adolescent use of the drug declined from 22 to 20 percent between 2011 and 2013, according to the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment. Also, teen use has actually dropped five percentage points in the state since 2009, which was the year hundreds of dispensaries started to open in Colorado. Even though overall national lifetime use of marijuana among all ages has slightly increased from 36.8 percent in 2009 to 40.7 percent in 2013, Colorado teens are steadily consuming the drug less.
Marijuana continues to be put as the villain, by opponents of legalization who seem to know very little about it and tend to ignore the reality that much of the fears surrounding it,were started several decades before with misinformed propaganda. As scientists continue to learn about marijuana’s medical benefits, tired arguments against the drug that mirror propaganda of the early decades are constantly being debunked today.
Ray Boroumand is the Office Manager of 4th Street Medical, a leader in providing evaluations for medical marijuana in Santa Ana. An advocate for medical marijuana, Ray believes in making the process as simple and easy for patients as possible through quick and convenient verification. At 4th Street Medical, he stresses convenience, affordability and transparency 100% of the time.