Legalizing marijuana for recreational use may lead to a decrease in use of the drug among teens, according to the findings of a new study.
Health experts and policy makers alike have expressed concerns about the effects of marijuana legalization for medicinal and recreational uses, indicating that it may result in significant increases in teen drug use. However, the new data suggests that may not be the case.
In a study were published this month in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers analyzed national youth health and behavior surveys from 1993 through 2017. The surveys included questions about marijuana use and included responses from 1.4 million high school students.
The data indicated legalizing marijuana in some states for adults has slightly reduced teens’ odds of using marijuana. Researchers looked at overall national changes but not at individual states.
Researchers speculate one reason for this is because it can be more difficult and more expensive for teens to get pot from legitimate licensed dispensaries than from dealers.
So far, 33 states and Washington D.C. have passed medical marijuana laws, and 10 states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational use of marijuana. But have these steps to legalization impacted teens?
The new data indicates there was no increase in teen use after marijuana legalization. Instead, some states saw a decrease in teen use. The odds of teen use declined almost 10% after recreational laws were enacted.
The results are similar to those from a study of Washington State where teen use declined after recreational marijuana sales began. However, other research has shown conflicting results after recreational marijuana laws were enacted.
Data indicates approximately 20% of high school students use marijuana in the United States.
Research has shown repeated use of marijuana during adolescence may lead to long-term changes in brain function and memory. It can lower IQ and cause attention problems as well as adversely affect educational, professional, and social outcomes.
While the findings of the new study do not necessarily indicate teen pot use will be significantly lowered after recreational legalization, it is one piece of evidence that suggests teen use may not significantly increase with legalization. Researchers said further research is needed to show the full impact marijuana laws may have on teen use.