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Legalizing Pot May Decrease Teen Use

Study looked at self-reported data on teen drug use between 1993 and 2017
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2019 7:21 PM CDT
In this Dec. 13, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant grows under artificial light at an indoor facility in Portland, Maine.   (AP)

(Newser) – Think legalizing pot will lead to more teens using the drug? Think again. A new US study finds that pot legalization laws may actually decrease teen pot use, Reuters reports. The study, reported in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at survey data on substance use that had been collected from 1.4 million adolescents between 1993 and 2017. During those years, cannabis was legalized for medicinal use in 27 states and Washington, DC, and it was legalized for recreational use in seven states. The medical cannabis laws appeared to have no effect on the rate of teen pot use, but the recreational cannabis laws were associated with a 9% decrease in the rate of teens who reported frequently using pot and an 8% decline in the rate of teens who reported trying cannabis in the past 30 days.

Why? It may simply be trickier for teens to get their hands on pot in states where it's legal, study authors suggest. "It may actually be more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age," says lead study author Mark Anderson, an associate professor in agricultural economics at Montana State University in Bozeman. Study authors also note pot may be more expensive when sold legally, per the BBC. Another expert who was not involved with the study theorizes parents in states where recreational pot use is legalized may also be more likely to talk to their children about the risks of using drugs, and may also increase their supervision of their kids. But, while a study in Washington state found similar results last year, a study out of Colorado last year found the rate of teen use remained the same; study authors say this research should be repeated "in a few years" since so many legalization laws are recent, CNN reports. (Smoke pot when you're young and your IQ might suffer.)

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