By Nigel Boys
After the legalization of medical marijuana in 23 U.S. states, those in opposition feared that it would lead to more underage usage of the drug, but a massive new study shows that not to be the case.
In fact, the Guardian reports new research showing that teenage usage has actually decreased as of 2014 from 8 percent before legalization to 6 percent afterwards.
According to a study tracking 1,098,270 students over 24 years from the 8th, 10th and 12th grades, which was published in the medical journal, Lancet Psychiatry, it appears medical marijuana advocates were right all along. The research carried out in 48 states by Dr. Deborah Hasin, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Centerin New York, found that the assumptions by opponents of medical marijuana had, in fact, been wrong.
Critics had argued that since 23 states and the District of Columbia (DC) had approved the use of cannabis from 1996, these moves towards permissiveness would lead to a rise in the use of the substance among teenagers. The legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C. further compounded these assumptions.
However, Hasin’s report seems to allay those fears, since the use of cannabis by adolescents was already higher in the states which opted for medical legalization, and the change in law did not lead to a rise in numbers.
“Our findings provide the strongest evidence to date that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalizes medical marijuana,” said Dr Hasin. “Rather, up to now, in the states that passed medical marijuana laws, adolescent marijuana use was already higher than in other states.”
“Perhaps the main concern of many people opposed to medical marijuana laws is that they will lead to increased general marijuana use, including among adolescents,” writes Dr. Kevin Hill in a commentary in the Lancet Psychiatry journal.
The addiction psychiatrist at the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse at McLean Hospital in Belmont points out that unlike nicotine or alcohol, which has shown a decline in usage by teenagers in recent years, cannabis use has increased. He adds that along with this increased usage among adolescents, the perception of its dangers has dropped.
“Hasin and colleagues postulated, as many would, that the passage of medical marijuana laws would increase adolescent marijuana use by contributing to the declining perception of the potential harms of marijuana,” continued the professor of Psychiatry at Harvard. “Their well-designed, methodologically sound study showed that this was not the case.”
One medical specialist who was not surprised by the results of the study was David Nutt, professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London. “The illegal market for cannabis is probably saturated, so making it a medicine will just allow law-abiding citizens with chronic medical problems to obtain the relief they have been denied for the past 40 years of prohibition,” he said, adding that the results were as he predicted.
According to ProCon.org, legislators in Delaware decriminalized possession of less than an ounce of pot last week. Maryland, Minnesota and New York legalized medical marijuana last year, and with Alaska and Hawaii, there are now a total of 23 states that have legalized the use of the drug for medical purposes.