Teen Marijuana Use Is Dropping In States With Legal Recreational Marijuana

Letting parents purchase legal week just for fun is somehow accomplishing what the DARE program never managed to do.


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Once again, researchers have found that when a state legalizes marijuana, the number of teens using cannabis doesn’t increase. Instead, it drops.

That’s the findings of a new study from researchers at four western universities. Their findings echoed similar results from a study conducted in Washington and released earlier this year.

The new study found an 8 percent drop in the number of students who used marijuana in the previous 30 days in states where recreational marijuana is legal. It also found a 9 percent drop in the number of high school students who said they had used marijuana at least 10 times in the previous 30 days in those same states.

The findings of both studies are even more interesting given the fact that a survey by the University of Michigan in late 2017 found use of marijuana among teens had increased across the entire country when non-legal states are included. That study found that use among teenagers in the 8th, 10th and 12th grade had increased by 24 percent from the previous year.

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Reasons and Methods

The latest study was conducted by researchers from Montana State University, University of Oregon, University of Colorado-Denver and San Diego State University. The researchers note that one reason for conducting the study is that “policy makers are particularly concerned that legalization for either medicinal or recreational purposes will encourage marijuana use among youth.”

They used information from Youth Risk Behavior Surveys administered every year by the government to track the behavior of teenagers in areas such as unhealthy eating, sexual activity and substance use. 

They used both national and state surveys from between 1993 and 2017. The surveys included 1.4 million students.

Related: Why the Weed Vaporizer Is the Future of Cannabis Consumption

The New Study Findings

Interestingly, the study found teen marijuana use neither increases nor decreases when a state legalized medical marijuana but drop only when a state legalized recreational marijuana.

So far, 11 states have done that: Alaska, California. Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Mark Anderson, the University of Montana professor who is listed first among the researchers on the study, told CNN that because so many of those states have recently made recreational marijuana legal, it will make sense to go back and look at the numbers again in a few years.

For now, the study states that “there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth” and that “marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes.”

The report also argued that one of the reasons for the decline in use could be that legalized marijuana makes it more difficult for teenagers to buy illegal weed as “drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.”

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