One of the biggest concerns about the legalization of medical marijuana is how it would affect our teenagers. Most of the opponents fear that by legalizing medical marijuana we are sending “the wrong message” to our youth. For them it’s like saying, “go smoke more weed.” While the advocates have always been emphasizing that this is far from reality and medical marijuana does not have to be feared, now they finally have a study that supports their claims – a study just published in The Lancet Psychiatry found no significant difference in adolescent marijuana use, as examined in 21 states with medical marijuana laws.

No increase after legalization

This exhaustive study used over 24 years of data coming from over a million teenagers in 48 states. The study found no evidence that legalized medical marijuana led to teenagers wanting to use it more than before, when it was illegal. Deborah Hasin, Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, reviewed data on teenagers between the ages of 13-18 and during the years 1991-2014. “Our findings provide the strongest evidence to date that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalizes medical marijuana. Rather, up to now, in the states that passed medical marijuana laws, adolescent marijuana use was already higher than in other states. Because early adolescent use of marijuana can lead to many long term harmful outcomes, identifying the factors that actually play a role in adolescent use should be a high priority,” said Dr. Hasin.

The new study supports earlier findings

The report from 2013 from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment found that high school marijuana use decreased from 22% in 2011 to 20% in 2013, which only supports the findings from the new study from Columbia University. The data was collected before Colorado made recreational marijuana legal, which is something that might’ve affected the numbers, however, the report proved that legalizing medical marijuana did not send the message to our youth that it was okay to use marijuana now that the law sees it as medicine. Dr. Larry Wolk, the CDPHE director said, “As with tobacco, youth prevention campaigns will help ensure adult legalization of marijuana in Colorado does not impact the health of Colorado kids.”

What happened in California?

Medical marijuana has been legal in California for many years, in an unregulated environment. So what happened there? Are all teenagers in California experiencing reefer madness? According to results from the 13th Biennial California Student Survey, marijuana use in teens from California has remained less prevalent than during years before medical marijuana was legal. Organizations that are against the legalization of medical marijuana need to understand that being able to get it and wanting to use it are two different things, as demonstrated with the studies mentioned above. Instead of speculating that medical marijuana would send the “wrong message” to kids, how about engaging into some educational programs that are supported by scientific evidence? The whole country, not just the teens, would benefit from such a thing.


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