No Uptick in Marijuana Use by Adolescents After States Pass Medical Marijuana Laws

Article by Stephanie Berger, Columbia University

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Adults over the age of 25 increased their use of marijuana after their home states made changes to medical marijuana laws, according to new research by scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. However, there was no difference in the prevalence of marijuana use reported for 12 to 17 or 18 to 25 year-olds after the laws passed. The findings are published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study is the first to link state medical marijuana laws with marijuana availability and use among adults. Results were based on 10 years of annual survey data from respondents to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health.

Until now there had been little information on how perceived availability is associated with marijuana use among the general population and, in particular, for adults, who are the majority of licensed medical marijuana users. Because medical marijuana laws are largely intended for older patients who suffer from illnesses such as chronic pain or cancer, it was considered likely that medical marijuana laws affect different age groups differently, and through different modes of access.

“While the evidence had suggested there is a link between the passage of laws and increases in marijuana use by those 21 and older, it was not clear if all sub-groups of adults were influenced in the same way,” said Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology.  “Before medical marijuana laws changed there was a concern that this type of legislation could potentially increase recreational marijuana use in adolescents and adult populations. At least for now, we do not see an increase in use among adolescents.”

The study found that adults 26 years and older increased their past-month use of marijuana from 5.87 percent to 7.15 percent after medical marijuana laws had passed in their state.

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