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Study Shows No Increase in Adolescent Marijuana Use in States after Medical Marijuana Legalization

Research recently conducted by a group of scientists at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health determines that adolescent use of marijuana after states legalize medical use has not increased. Two age groups were studied -- ages 12 through 17 and ages 18 through 25. The full study report is published on the University’s website as well as in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

This is the first published study using state medical marijuana laws, availability, and usage patterns with both adolescents and adults. Data from 10-years of records was referenced to assist in drawing a conclusion from facts. Survey responses from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health over the last decade was also referenced.

Dr. Silvia Martins, MD, PhD said:

“While the evidence had suggested there is a link between the passage of laws and increases in marijuana use by those 21 and older, it was not clear if all sub-groups of adults were influenced in the same way. Before medical marijuana laws changed, there was a concern that this type of legislation could potentially increase recreational marijuana use in adolescents and adult populations. At least for now, we do not see an increase in use among adolescents.”

Although the study focused on just two age groups, other age groups were also explored. Adults ages 26 and older showed an increase in marijuana use from 5.87-percent up to 7.15-percent after the passage of medical marijuana laws in some states. Even with the increased availability of marijuana in states where it was legalized for medicinal purposes, teen and young adult use did not increase.

Increased registered patient bases were noticed once medical marijuana began to be accepted by more of the population.

Note: Not all states enforce medical marijuana patient registration. But patient registration numbers have significantly increased since 2009 when federal prosecution laws tamed a bit.

To further comment on the study, Dr. Martins also said:

“Understanding how the passage of medical marijuana laws affects different age groups improves our understanding of the effects of marijuana policies and provides information about types of public health responses that should accompany major policy changes related to marijuana.”


Key Points of the Study

  • Increased availability of marijuana in medically legal states has not caused an incline in teen or young adult use
  • Adults ages 26 and older see marijuana being easily available at a rate of 62-percent, which is a 3-percent increase
  • Specific young adult/adolescent research following state approval of medical marijuana programs previously ignored due to suggestive data that medical marijuana is for older adults with chronic health conditions – not young adults


Closing Thoughts

This study provides concrete data from highly respected resources and statistical collection services to show that adolescent and young adult use of marijuana has not increased since the passage of individual state medical marijuana laws. This study looks only at medical marijuana related data. It also provides data showing that increased availability of a substance does not always mean that it will become an epidemic or issue of public health.

Essentially, adolescents and young adults that have been or are curious to try marijuana likely already have prior to the medical marijuana laws being passed in their states or genuinely have no interest in using marijuana or other substances.

See Related Post: Marijuana is Not a Gateway Drug - U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch Confirms

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