APR 25, 2024 5:15 PM PDT

Recreational Marijuana Laws Not Linked to Increased Youth Marijuana Use

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

A recent study found that the adoption of recreational marijuana laws in the US is not associated with increased marijuana use among adolescents. The corresponding study was published in JAMA Psychiatry

As of April 2024, 24 states have legalized recreational marijuana. The drug is legal in another 14 states for medical use only. As support for legislation increases, concerns exist that it will encourage use of the drug among youth. Marijuana use among youth has been linked to negative health outcomes and poor academic performance. 

In the current study, researchers investigated whether the introduction of recreational marijuana laws has influenced marijuana use among adolescents in the US. 

To do so, they analyzed data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a set of surveys collected between 1991 and 2021 that includes data from over 5 million high school students across the US. The researchers used data in which students were an average age of 16 years old. 

Ultimately, they found no evidence that the adoption of recreational marijuana laws was associated with current or frequent marijuana use. Current marijuana use was defined as any use in the last 30 days, whereas frequent use was defined as use at least ten times within the last 30 days. 

The researchers further found no evidence of increased marijuana use among adolescents after the introduction of recreational marijuana laws. 

"There was no evidence that RMLs were associated with encouraging youth marijuana use, based on both the logistic regression and interaction-weighted models," wrote the researchers in their research letter

“One limitation of this study is that youth who dropped out of high school are absent from the YRBS, and these individuals may be vulnerable to increased marijuana access. Going forward, researchers will want to update our estimates as additional posttreatment data become available and more states legalize marijuana for recreational purposes,” they concluded. 


Sources: EurekAlertJAMA Psychiatry

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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