You have probably heard from some prohibitionists that legalizing cannabis, or even decriminalizing the plant, will lead to an increase in consumption – especially when it comes to teenage use. The tired, age old tactic of ‘think of the children’ is trotted out time and time again in an attempt to shoot down discussions regarding removing criminal penalties associated with responsible adult cannabis use. A recent study conducted by a nationwide team of researchers and lead by Washington University does its part to help debunk this age-old prohibitionist rhetoric, with the evidence to back it all up.
Unsurprisingly, the study indicated that there was a considerable reduction in arrests involving minor cannabis offenses, which should obviously come with the territory when a state decriminalizes the plant medicine. What might raise a few eyebrows is the fact that the researchers found ‘no increase in cannabis use among youths’ in the states that were looked into.
“Our results provide additional evidence that decriminalization can be accomplished without an increase in youth drug use. These findings are consistent with the interpretation that decriminalization policies likely succeed with respect to their intended effects and that their short-term unintended consequences are minimal,” the WU study reports.
The study was conducted in five U.S. states that have decriminalized cannabis use between the years of 2008 and 2014: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont and Maryland. The study compared federal cannabis arrest data to that of state arrest data, and the results were highly promising. The decrease in juvenile cannabis charges was a significant 75 percent, with adult arrests not too far behind.
It is like listening to a broken record at this point, but the researchers pointed out the fact that more studies and investigation needs to be conducted to see if the results of the study could be replicated and if they are as significant in the long-term. This sentiment is a common theme, as the absurd classification of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug at the federal level continues to severely halt much-needed medical research and cultural studies like this one. However, this study is yet another positive one that continues to prove that the prohibitionist mindset is wrong.
“Decriminalization of cannabis in [the researched states] resulted in large decreases in cannabis possession arrests for both youth and adults, suggesting that the policy change had its intended consequence. Our analysis did not find any increase in the prevalence of youth cannabis use during the observation period,” the study concludes.
The researchers also report that cannabis decriminalization would not necessarily decrease the rate at which possessing the plant is enforced through fines and civil penalties.