Since cannabis legalization first began in Colorado and Washington, there has been a noticeable decline in the number of teens who claim to use cannabis. The most recent study, published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, found an 8 percent decrease in teens who said they had used marijuana in the last 30 days, and a 9 percent decrease in those who said they used it 10 or more times in states where recreational cannabis is legal.
The study was conducted by researchers Mark Anderson of Montana State University, Benjamin Hansen of the University of Oregon, Daniel Rees of the University of Colorado Denver, and Joseph Sabia of San Diego State University.
“Just to be clear we found no effect on teen use following legalization for medical purposes, but evidence of a possible reduction in use following legalization for recreational purposes,” said Mark Anderson, an associate professor at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, who was first author of the paper.
To come to this conclusion, researchers analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey – combing through results spanning from 1993 to 2017. The results covered both changes in medical marijuana laws in 27 states that have been adopted in that time, as well as those states that have legalized recreational use of cannabis.
Researchers looked specifically at self-reported marijuana use, as well as responses in areas where medical and recreational marijuana was legalized. The examined changes before and after laws legalizing the plant were implemented. According to the researchers, their study is “based more on policy variation than prior work”, which they believe makes their study the most credible on the subject so far.
“Because many recreational marijuana laws have been passed so recently, we do observe limited post-treatment data for some of these states,” Anderson said. “In a few years, it would make sense to update our estimates as more data become available.”
This is far from the first study to come to the conclusion that legalizing cannabis could decrease teen cannabis use. This study covered a 24 year span from 1991-2014; these two studies done in 2016 (one from Colorado, and a slightly different one published a month later); and yet another out of Colorado at the end of 2017.
Each time one of these studies comes out, it continues to add weight to the fact that legalization does reduce teen use when compared to prohibition. It not only educates teens, making them less likely to try it illegally in the first place, but legalization also makes it harder for them to obtain cannabis. At this point, anyone who is arguing against legalization under the excuse that we need to protect our children should take a look at these studies and statistics and rethink their argument.