When cannabis drug reform was just starting to gain steam, many a prohibitionist argued that legalizing cannabis would increase access and directly lead to an increase in marijuana use by the youth. However, things have played out differently, with most states having legal cannabis markets reporting no increase in youth drug use after they launched recreational or medical cannabis sales. A new study on adolescent cannabis consumption that was recently published in a prominent scientific journal has now joined the growing body of literature that has found no correlation between the emergence of recreational and cannabis laws and an increase in marijuana use among adolescents.
Published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association,” the study analyzed data collected from 1993 to 2019 by the federal Youth Risk Behaviour Survey in 10 states with medical or recreational cannabis markets, concluding that the impact of these markets on adolescent cannabis consumption is “statistically indistinguishable from zero.” Researchers found that the adoption of recreational cannabis laws was not associated with a bump in current cannabis use or frequent cannabis use among adolescents. Furthermore, the researchers say, medical cannabis laws led to a 6% reduction in the odds of current cannabis use and a 7% reduction in the odds of frequent cannabis use.
Interestingly, states that launched recreational markets more than two years ago saw a drop in cannabis consumption by the youth. As with many previous studies on adolescent cannabis consumption, the researchers couldn’t explain why the youth may not be using cannabis in the numbers prohibitionists expected in the wake of legalization. It could be due to the fact that legal cannabis markets are tightly regulated with most, if not all, adult-use markets requiring customers be over 21 and that they show their identification before they can make a purchase.
Matthew Schweich, the deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, says that the study not only provides additional evidence that legalizing cannabis does not lead to increased use among adolescents but it also suggests that cannabis reform laws may actually be decreasing teen use. This comes shortly after National Institute on Drug Abuse (“NIDA”) director Nora Volkow acknowledged that legal cannabis markets have not led to increased youth use on Drug Policy Alliance founder Ethan Nadelmann’s podcast. Additionally, a federal report that was released in May by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (“NCES”) challenged the prohibitionist narrative that legalizing cannabis would lead to increased adolescent cannabis consumption.
With the way science is debunking many of the misconceptions about cannabis, sector players such as American Cannabis Partners can look forward to a brighter future as the population becomes more informed about marijuana.
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