Study: Teen Use of Marijuana Declines in States Where Recreational Use is Legal

As the sale of marijuana has become legal in a growing number of states, many parents have feared that might lead to increased use among teens in those states. Fortunately, the opposite seems to be true. A new report out today from the medical journal, JAMA Pediatrics suggests that use seems to be lower in states where the laws have been changed.

Some marijuana shops look like elegant cafes or spas.

Teen Use of Marijuana and States Where it is Legal

Researchers found that in states where the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes was legal the use by teens has declined. They pointed out that the legalization and decreasing use were correlated and they could not say for certain what the cause was. What they could say was that teen use had not risen in those states.

Importantly the researchers said: “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,” concluded Mark Anderson, an author on the paper and an associate professor at Montana State University.

Using a large sample of over 1.4 million teens the researchers found an 8% drop in the number of teens who had smoked marijuana in the previous 30 days, and a 9% decline in the number who had used it 10 times or more in the previous 30 days. There was no change in teen behavior in those states that had legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes only. These findings were consistent with other studies on the same topic.

Experts speculated that by making marijuana legal, access was limited to licensed dispensaries who would monitor the age of the purchaser more closely than those selling on the street.  Ironically, by making it legal for adults, it might have become more difficult for teens to obtain. “Teens could just use fake IDs or have someone over 21 buy for them, but the point is that it is now more difficult than prior to the law being passed,” says Anderson.

The news is not all good as the use of cigarettes and alcohol by teens have both declined precipitously between 2007 and 2017, the use of marijuana has increased over the same time period.

About Lisa Endlich Heffernan

Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author.
She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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