Medical marijuana advocates received the gift they wanted. A complete pushback against the notion legalization of medical marijuana leads to a surge in teen or adolescent use.
The notion of ‘we have to protect the children from marijuana’ is effectively debunked in a new study published in Lancet Psychiatry. The working theory at the start of the study was the gradual legalization of marijuana in 23 states (plus DC) was teen use would surge. Critics have long cited that concern as efforts have slowly built to legalize the drug.
Dr. Deborah Hasin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University led a team to find a definitive answer. 24 years of data from more than one million teens showed the fears of marijuana critics are unfounded.
“Our findings provide the strongest evidence to date that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalizes medical marijuana,” said Dr. Hasin. “Rather, up to now, in the states that passed medical marijuana laws, adolescent marijuana use was already higher than in other states.”
What is concerning for researchers is the potential long-term health impacts on teens who use marijuana. Dr. Hasin wants future research to find the triggers contributing to a teen taking up the drug.
Marijuana and Teen Use
Researchers used the national study, Monitoring the Future, to analyze marijuana habits. The national study, conducted each year, collects data from 50,000 teens aged 13-18 in the 8th, 10th and 12th grade.
The results of the analysis were no rise, even after controlling for external factors such as age, ethnicity, gender and whether a school was public or private.
Through the survey data, the research team found a drop in marijuana use among 8th graders. There wasn’t a clear reason found in the data, but researchers are theorizing the older students already had fix stances regarding the drug. Younger students may view the drug as no longer recreational once medical legislation passed in their home state.
Another theory is more vigilance on the part of parents. They may have taken a more hardened stance against marijuana and educating their kids on the dangers.
There is also the fact it has become an expensive habit. Legalization of medical marijuana in states has been accompanied by high state taxes. While access has seemingly opened up, it is quickly shut off by exorbitant prices.
Medical Marijuana Legalization
In an accompanying commentary in the journal, Dr. Kevin Hill highlighted the concern of critics and the need for science to find the truth. Political issues often get clouded in preconceived perceptions, regardless of the facts.
He writes: “Perhaps the main concern of many people opposed to medical marijuana laws is that they will lead to increased general marijuana use, including among adolescents.”
“Hasin and colleagues postulated, as many would, that the passage of medical marijuana laws would increase adolescent marijuana use by contributing to the declining perception of the potential harms of marijuana. Their well-designed, methodologically sound study showed that this was not the case,”
What does the study show? The black market for marijuana is already saturated. Just because a state moves to legalize medical marijuana does not mean a sudden influx of users. If they wanted it before, teens would get it before.
Instead, the medical marijuana legalization has opened the doors for patients with chronic illnesses to find relief.
Already, studies are in progress at the federal level to study the effects of marijuana on various diseases. Marijuana’s legalization tipping point is here. Now, it will take a national politician willing to deal with a vocal minority to push it over the top.