A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research contradicts lawmakers who say legalizing medical marijuana encourages more teenagers to use pot. According to the study’s results, there's no indication that pot-friendly states have a higher incidence of high school students trying pot for the first time or regularly getting high.
"Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the legalization of medical marijuana caused an increase in the use of marijuana among high school students," D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University, Daniel Rees of the University of Colorado and Benjamin Hansen of the University of Oregon wrote in their report, published Tuesday.
Researchers compared data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on annual marijuana use by adolescents and found there was no significant increase in the probability that a high school student in states where medical marijuana is legal had used weed in the past 30 days compared to states where it is not.
As the U.S. increasingly moves toward adopting laws in favor of both medical and recreational marijuana, lawmakers against its acceptance have often used the argument that legal weed leads to an increase in underage use in debates. Opponents of legalization say they are concerned it will cause adolescents to pick up the habit, and previous research has at times seemed to support this notion.
In February, the International Journal of Drug Policy released a study that found 10 percent of high school students who were considered low risk for becoming marijuana smokers (a group defined by things like whether they smoke cigarettes, have strong religious beliefs or associate with non-marijuana smoking friends) say they would try pot if it was legal.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use among teens declined from the late 1990s until the mid-to-late 2000s. In 2013, 36 percent of high school seniors said they used pot in the past year, while 6.5 percent said they were regular users.
“Young people are showing less disapproval of marijuana use and decreased perception that marijuana is dangerous,” the institute noted. “The growing perception of marijuana as a safe drug may reflect recent public discussions over ‘medical marijuana’ and movements to legalize the drug for adult recreational use in some states.”
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