Study: Legalizing Medical Marijuana Doesn't Increase Use Among Adolescents

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

One common refrain from those opposed to medical marijuana is that its legalization would increase use among adolescents, but a new study indicates that's just not true.

According to the study from Rhode Island Hospital, which compared 20 years of data from states with and without medical marijuana laws, legalizing cannabis for medicinal use did not lead to any increased use among adolescents, reports ScienceDaily. The study is published online and will be in the upcoming print issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

"Any time a state considers legalizing medical marijuana, there are concerns from the public about an increase in drug use among teens," said Esther Choo, M.D., attending physician in the department of emergency medicine at Rhode Island Hospital. "In this study, we examined 20 years' worth of data, comparing trends in self-reported adolescent marijuana use between states with medical marijuana laws and neighboring states without the laws, and found no increase in marijuana use that could be attributed to the law."

"This adds to a growing body of literature published over the past three years that is remarkably consistent in demonstrating that state medical marijuana policies do not have a downstream effect on adolescent drug use, and we feared they might," Choo said.

The study looked at a sample of 32,750 high school students. According to the data, past-month marijuana use was common, with nearly 21 percent of the study population admitting toking up. But there were no statistically significant differences in cannabis use before and after medical marijuana legalization.

"Researchers should continue to monitor and measure marijuana use," Choo said. "But we hope that this information will provide some level of reassurance to policymakers, physicians, and parents about medical marijuana laws."

Other researchers involved in the study with Choo included Nicholas Zaller, Ph.D., of The Miriam Hospital and Alpert Medical School, Jason Mechan, Ph.D., of Rhode Island Hospital and Alpert Medical School, Kristin Rising, M.D., of Boston Medical Center, and John McConnell, Ph.D., of Oregon Health & Science University.

Graphic: American LiveWire