A new, in-depth study has found that when states pass medical marijuana laws, teen use of the drug doesn’t seem to rise or fall.
According to an article in Yahoo, researchers analyzed information from more than 1 million U.S. teens in grades 8, 10 and 12, who were asked whether they’d used marijuana in the past month. The researchers collected 24 years’ worth of survey data, from 1991 to 2014.
The results found that teen marijuana use was more common in states that had passed medical marijuana laws as of 2014. Almost 16 percent of teens in states where medical marijuana is legal said they had used marijuana in the past month, compared with 13 percent of teens in states where medical marijuana is not legal.
But when researchers looked at marijuana use over time in the 21 states where medical marijuana was legal by 2014, they found that there wasn’t any change in marijuana use after a medical marijuana law was passed, compared with before. About 16 percent of teens said they had used marijuana in the past month before a law was passed, compared with 15 percent who said the same after a law was passed.
The article also pointed to two other previous studies that have also found that marijuana use among teens didn’t rise after medical marijuana was legalized. Those studies weren’t very well-received, since they were smaller and had been done in four or five states. According to the author of the latest study, the new data will “provide the strongest evidence to date that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalizes medical marijuana. Rather, up to now, in the states that passed medical marijuana laws, adolescent marijuana use was already higher than in other states”
This study may help calm the minds of those who have been worried that legalizing medical marijuana could increase use among teens because they might see it as more acceptable or less harmful when new laws are passed. But the study shows otherwise and the study’s author claims the concerns “seem unfounded.”
In the June 16th issue of the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, the researchers wrote, “Our study findings suggest that the debate over the role of medical marijuana laws in adolescent marijuana use should cease, and that resources should be applied to identifying the factors that do affect risk.”
The researchers also made sure to point out that the study only looked at teen use when medical marijuana laws were enacted and didn’t focus on what happens when the recreational use of marijuana is legalized in certain states. They also suggested that because some states in the study had only recently passed medical marijuana laws, the study should be repeated after more years of data have been collected.