Just Because Weed Is Legal Doesn’t Mean Teenagers Are Using It More

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A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that marijuana legalization laws are not associated with increased use amongst high school students.

“Consistent with estimates from prior studies, there was little evidence that [recreational marijuana laws] or [medical marijuana laws] encourage youth marijuana use,” reads the paper.

RELATED: 70 Percent of Americans Think Consuming Cannabis Is Morally Acceptable

Then vs. now

The study builds upon a previous paper that used data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) for the period 1993-2017, which found that marijuana adoption was associated with an 8% decrease in the odds of marijuana use among high school students. 

This earlier study used pre-legalization and post-legalization data from only 7 states and pre– and post–recreational sales data from only 3 states. The new study included data from up to 2019, encompassing 10 legal adult-use states.

With these additional data, the study found that “medical marijuana law adoption was associated with a 6% decrease in the odds of current marijuana use and a 7% decrease in the odds of frequent marijuana use.”

Recreational use laws are still too new

When it comes to recreational use, the news study found that prior to legalization, there was no association with marijuana use in the states analyzed. After 2 or more years, recreational marijuana law adoption was associated with a decrease in marijuana use.

The study’s authors point out one limitation of this study in the fact that recreational marijuana laws are a relatively new phenomenon.

“As more post-legalization data become available, researchers will be able to draw firmer conclusions about the relationship between [recreational marijuana laws] and adolescent marijuana use,” concluded the authors.

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