Legalized Medical Pot Teens Study – There are arguments for and against legalized medical pot, but a marijuana study confirms that teens are not more encouraged to smoke it.
This new research compared rates of marijuana use in Massachusetts and Rhode Island after the latter state changed its laws.
Rhode Island legalized pharmaceutical marijuana in 2006, but Massachusetts did not. “We wanted to pair these two states because they have so much in common culturally and geographically,” says Dr. Esther Choo, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and emergency medicine physician at Rhode Island Hospital.
Choo’s analysis used data collected from 1997 to 2009 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The analysis involved nearly 13,000 youth in Rhode Island and about 25,000 in Massachusetts. In each state in any given year, the study found, about 30% of teens reported using cannabis at least once in the previous month.
In other words, while marijuana use was common, there was no significant difference in rates of marijuana use between the years before and after it was legalized in Rhode Island. “We found no effect of the policy change,” says Choo.
These results are consistent with a 2005 study conducted by Mitch Earleywine, associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York–Albany, for the Marijuana Policy Project. He found that between 1996 — when California passed its marijuana law — and 2004, previous-month pot use by ninth graders declined by 47%. That was a slightly steeper decline than seen nationally during the same period, and Earleywine found a similar effect in all of the pharmaceutical marijuana states he studied.
“Whether they are taking it for pain or for vomiting control or appetite, this is not a group we think of as superinspiring for teens to take up their drug pattern. It’s an older population who is generally very ill,” says Choo.
It’s important to note that neither Choo’s nor Earleywine’s analyses have been subjected to peer review. Choo’s work was presented on Wednesday at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. She is planning to do further analysis, including data from additional states, for future publication of medical pot.