A research letter published on July 8 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics indicates that teen cannabis consumption declined and did not increase in states that have legalized medical or recreational cannabis.
Researchers used data from Youth Risk Behavior Surveys dating from 1993 to 2017. Some of the studies include the Monitoring the Future study and the Washington Healthy Youth Survey. The surveys observe U.S. high school students in grades 9-12 and are used by government agencies to track unhealthy behaviors.
Using the data, recreational cannabis laws were associated with an eight percent decline in the odds of cannabis consumption among teens and a nine percent decrease in the odds of heavy cannabis consumption. Heavy cannabis consumption was defined as 10 or more times in the last 30 days. They found no correlation between medical cannabis laws and teen cannabis consumption.
“Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth,” wrote researchers. “Moreover, the estimates reported in the Table showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes.”
For the study, data on over 1.4 million high school students was used. Researchers guess that the decline in teen consumption could be explained by street dealers being replaced by budtenders at dispensaries. As dispensaries in all states require proof of age, it’s much more difficult for teens to buy cannabis in dispensaries compared to finding dealers on the street.
As medical cannabis research is very limited in the U.S., studies are typically limited to surveys that are completed by participants. The data is consistent with previous studies with similar questions, including the California Healthy Kids Survey, which also suggested a decline in teen consumption. This is the latest study to dismantle the concept that legalization leads to higher teen cannabis consumption.