One of the key issues during the medicinal marijuana debate was whether it would lead to higher usage rates among teens in the respective states. A new study has just contradicted this hypothesis. Researchers have concluded that states with medical marijuana laws actually now have slightly lower rates than states where it is still completely criminalized.
“The shifts were small,” said lead researcher Rebekah Levine Coley, chair of counseling, developmental and educational psychology at Boston College. “For every 100 adolescents, just over one fewer would report having used marijuana in the preceding month following enactment of medical marijuana laws.” Coley’s team was drawing its data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This survey tracks alcohol, drug use and other risky activities among teens. The data used covered the surveys of 860,000 teens from 1999 through 2015 that are administered biannually.
These shifts towards lower use (1.1% as a whole) were shown to be more drastic among certain subgroups. Usage decreased in all male high school students by 2.7%, 3.9% among African American high school students and 2.7% among Hispanic high school students..
More evidence was shown in states that have had medicinal pot laws in place for longer periods. A state with medical laws at least a decade old saw 32% lower odds of pot use by teens compared to illegal states and only 9% lower odds in states with medical pot laws that are less than five years old.
One main hypothesis for this behavior is that teens are less likely to try something if public perception shifts from it being forbidden to being a medicine. Is it possible that making a substance a medicine will deter youths from trying it? Recent findings point in that direction.
Further evidence of this may be found in data compiled by The National Survey on Drug Use and Health. They have concluded that marijuana use among teens has risen in states where it has become fully recreational. These usage rates are far higher than the national average. Based on these two sets of research it may be said that medical marijuana deters children from smoking pot while fully recreational states (legal to resident 21 and over) encourages it.