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Legalization of Recreational Cannabis Reduce Teen Use on It

The American Medical Association published landmark research on Monday in their journal JAMA Pediatrics. The study analyzed federal data on the cannabis use of 1.4 million high school students from 1993 to 2017. Authors D. Mark Anderson, Ph.D.; Benjamin Hansen, Ph.D.; Daniel I. Rees, Ph.D.; et al. concluded:

“Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth. Moreover, [the analysis] showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes.”

Youth Marijuana Use Declines After the Legalization of Recreational Cannabis

Youth cannabis use declined by an average of 8% in states that legalized recreational marijuana. Dr. Mark Anderson told CNN that the new study is “the most credible to date in the literature” because it is “based on more policy variation than prior work.” He said, “it would make sense to update our estimates as more data becomes available” in a few years. 

The authors stopped short of stating a conclusion about why cannabis use has dropped among high schoolers in legal cannabis states. Reform advocates suggest there are a couple of key reasons that legalization reduces underage consumption. 

Effective Tax and Regulation Makes it Hard for Teens to Purchase Cannabis

First, legal cannabis shops displace a significant portion of the black market in states that implement effective taxes and regulations, which makes it more difficult for those under 21 to obtain the drug. The study published by the American Medical Association stated that their findings were “consistent with [the] argument that it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.”

Psychosociological Effect of Legalization Stops Teen’s Use

The other explanation is the psychosociological effect of legalization on the decision of whether or not to use cannabis by the individual. For developing youth, a chance to experience the “recreation of adults” or danger of something illegal, draws many into trying a substance. Removing that stigma leaves cannabis as just what it is, a medicinal plant — one that most adults are using for sleep and pain, not for raging all night at a club. 

Current generations have real data at their fingertips, not just propaganda piped in through television commercials. Kids can simply google the uses and effects of various drugs, which is how they became so proficient at removing narcotics from their parents’ medicine cabinets, but not their blood pressure medication or antidepressants.

When you remove the stigma of an illicit substance, only those who actually find benefit use it, and as we’ve seen clearly in states that have ended cannabis prohibition, not everyone does. That’s a good thing, it’s our differences in abilities and preferences that make us human, and it’s freedom to decide what we do with them that makes us American.

Works Cited

Anderson, D. Mark. “Association of Marijuana Laws With Teen Marijuana Use.” JAMA Pediatrics, 8 July 2019, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2737637?guestAccessKey=5e4e41eb-ec96-4641-86f9-b5c89cc7cc48.

Jaeger, Kyle. “Congress Schedules Hearing To Discuss Ending Marijuana Prohibition.” Marijuana Moment, 2 July 2019, www.marijuanamoment.net/congress-schedules-hearing-to-discuss-ending-marijuana-prohibition/.

Jaeger, Kyle. “Youth Marijuana Use Declined In States That Legalized, Study Finds.” Marijuana Moment, 8 July 2019, www.marijuanamoment.net/youth-marijuana-use-declined-in-states-that-legalized-study-finds/.

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