Although some studies suggest that having a legal framework to buy and consume medical marijuana does not have any negative effects on teenagers, a new study just showed up that suggests the opposite – the ability to legally acquire medical marijuana is linked to greater addiction risk than buying the drug on the streets, illegally. The study was conducted at the University of Michigan has looked at nearly 4,400 high school students, which makes it the first to report on a nationally representative sample. The number includes 48 teens who had medical marijuana cards, 266 who said they used “other medical marijuana,” meaning they used medical marijuana but without a card and finally those who bought the drug from a street dealer. It’s not clear from the University’s press release how many of these kids bought their weed from the dealer. However, the researchers found out during the study that teens who have legal medical marijuana at their disposal are 10 times more likely to say they’re addicted than those who got it illegally. But what does that really mean?

Adolescent Use of Medical Marijuana

The study, “Adolescents’ use of Medical Marijuana: A Secondary Analysis of Monitoring the Future Data,” is scheduled for publication in August in the Journal of Adolescent Health. According to the study author, Carol Boyd, a professor in the School of Nursing, medical marijuana laws are not what we hoped they would be. In a press release from the University of Michigan she said: “I think that medical marijuana laws are failed policy and that these data lend support to my position. More youth use medical marijuana that don’t have a card than that have a card.” Could it be that kids who buy weed illegally perceive it as just occasional fun? Those who undergo a process of getting a card have to convince someone (and themselves) that they are ill, and finally consume cannabis as a medicine, instead of a, well, just plant. Call us crazy, but there must be something psychological going on throughout this process that alters these teenagers perception towards marijuana.

It Doesn’t Make A Difference

Professor Boyd doesn’t believe that the presence of legal medical marijuana is contributing to teen addiction to marijuana, especially considering the low numbers of teens who have medical marijuana cards. Boyd thinks that teens who have developed some sort of dependency on the drug, or they feel they are dependent, are more likely to acquire the card, just to ensure a reliable source of marijuana.

Boyd and her team have looked into three types of teen marijuana users and for each group they analyzed five risk behaviors. Teens who used medical pot from someone else were at higher risk for engaging in all five behaviors, including consuming marijuana to get high as well as consuming alcohol with prescription pills. But compared to teens who have medical marijuana cards, this group was just 4 times as likely to say they’re addicted to marijuana. Teens who bought pot from a dealer, had the lowest likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors.


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