Heavy Teen Pot Use Drops Where Medical Cannabis is Legal


In life, sometimes the exact opposite thing of what we think might happen is what occurs.

According to a new study, published in the journal Addiction, frequent cannabis use by adolescents dropped in states where medical marijuana is legal, which as of the 2016 election, includes 28 states plus DC.

There was a reduction in the prevalence of heavy marijuana use among adolescent active users, from 9.90 to 6.23% (P = 0.04), in medicalized states.

Cannabis use under medicalized programs requires state-regulated licensing,“manufacturing, dispensing, testing and labeling under close physician supervision.”

The investigators classified heavy cannabis use as pot consumption on more than 300 days.

A Closer Look at the Research

Based on cross-sectional data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)  from 2004 to 2013, the researchers measured the popularity of marijuana use each year among 18 to 25-year-olds and subjects that were 26 years old and older.

The study evaluated marijuana use within the past month, heavy usage, and cannabis abuse.

Other variables included program type, age group and state-level characteristics throughout the study period.

A Closer Look at the Findings

Researchers found that adults 26 and older who lived in states that legalized medical cannabis under minimal restrictions (instead of medicalized regulations) “increased past-month marijuana use 1.46% (from 4.13 to 6.59%, P = 0.01), skewing towards greater heavy marijuana by 2.36% (from 14.94 to 17.30, P = 0.09) after” the enactment of medical marijuana legalization.

That said, the researchers also noted no increase in cannabis dependence or abuse during the study period. The investigation’s findings do not show increases in pot use among adults in states with medicalized legal medical cannabis programs.

They also noted no increases in adolescent or young adult marijuana outcomes following the legalization of medical marijuana, regardless of the regulation level.

Just Because Medical Cannabis is Legal Doesn’t Mean Teens Consume More Of It

Sure, it would make perfect sense that non-medical marijuana laws in U.S. states lead to more marijuana use — but the study found this to be true only among adults aged 26 and older.

The authors of the study suggest that “researchers and policymakers should consider program regulation and subgroup characteristics (i.e., demographics) when assessing for population level outcomes;” and that they should “consider program regulation and subgroup characteristics (i.e., demographics) when assessing for population-level outcomes.”

Science is Showing the Same Results Across the Board

Another recent study showed that after the enactment of medical marijuana laws, past-month or occasional cannabis use either dropped or remained unchanged among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, according to data from a long-standing nationally representative survey of nearly 1.2 million middle and high school students. Additionally, the study linked medical cannabis laws with decreased use of cigarettes and other drugs.

And yet another study published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors investigated the impact of medical marijuana legalization in Oregon alone and found no significant changes in adolescent cannabis use among non-users.

In fact, the 2016 NSDUH found that “the rate of teen cannabis use has dropped to its lowest since 1994. Among youth between the ages of 12-17, marijuana usage has been on a downward trend since at least 2002 even though recreational marijuana shops opened in 2014.”

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