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One of the major roadblocks to widening cannabis access is concerns over how kids will be affected. Anti-weed dinosaurs argue that legalization will make access easier for younger generations. And, sure, in their defense, teens really should not be consuming cannabis in large quantities. 

But new data shows that legalizing cannabis doesn’t actually lead to teens toking up at faster rates. According to a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The investigation centers around a 1993-2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was collected by the federal government in 10 states that have legalized either recreational or medicinal marijuana. Money from the National Institutes of Health helped to fund the project. 

“Consistent with estimates from prior studies, there was little evidence that [recreational marijuana laws] or [medical marijuana laws] encourage youth marijuana use,” stated the analysis.

The cross-sectional study, as reported by Marijuana Moment, found that recreational legalization did not have immediate, noticeable effects on teen consumption, and even led to a drop in teen cannabis consumption two years after such regulation took effect. The legalization of medicinal cannabis was actually associated with a seven percent decrease in cannabis use among teens. 

A previous investigation that focused on data between 1993-2017 resulted in similar findings. The most recent study’s researchers D. Mark Anderson, Daniel I. Rees, and Joseph J. Sabia noted that we can look forward to better information on legalization’s effects on consumers as those laws age. 

“As more post-legalization data become available, researchers will be able to draw firmer conclusions about the relationship between RMLs and adolescent marijuana use,” the study’s summary states.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse holds that cannabis use among teens can lead to reduced school performance, reduced life satisfaction, impaired driving, and use of other drugs. 

However, NIDA’s director Nora Volkow — who has been at the head of the organization since 2003 — admitted two weeks ago that scientific data suggests that legalization of cannabis does not appear to lead teens to use the drug. 

Her comments were preceded by similar statements from a White House official last year, who noted a drop in teen consumption in legalization-leading Colorado.

The JAMA study did not provide explanations as to why youth use would drop after the government legalizes cannabis. That would be an excellent topic for further research, however. Drug advocates have long suggested that removing the taboo from cannabis consumption will minimize the illicit allure that weed use holds for young people. 

“[The study] suggests that cannabis legalization laws might be decreasing teen use,” Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich told Marijuana Moment. 

“That makes sense because legal cannabis businesses are required to strictly check the IDs of their customers. The unregulated market, which prohibitionists are effectively trying to sustain, lacks such protections.”