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Medical Cannabis Laws And Youth Use

A recent claim that the introduction of medical cannabis laws in the USA increases juvenile cannabis use has been challenged.

A 2015 article, published recently in in the journal International Journal of Drug Policy, concluded that it was “reasonable to speculate that medical cannabis laws amplify juveniles’ use of cannabis by allaying the social stigma associated with recreational cannabis use and by placating the fear that cannabis use could potentially result in a negative health outcome.”

The study incorporated data from five measurement periods calibrated in two-year intervals (2002-2003 to 2010-2011) from the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use in Households (NSDUH).

However, a new article in the same journal questions this finding about medical marijuana laws (MML).

“We show that Stolzenberg et al. do not properly control for the fact that states that pass MML during 2002-2011 tend to already have higher past-month marijuana use before passing the MML in the first place,” say the authors; researchers at Columbia University.

“We further show that when within-state changes are properly considered and pre-MML prevalence is properly controlled, there is no evidence of a differential increase in past-month marijuana use in youth that can be attributed to state MML”.

Also commenting on the Stolzenberg et al. paper in question, the Columbia team says modeling consideration is needed when using observational data to examine the impact of policy changes. The full text can be viewed here.

Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, points out other studies reaching similar types of conclusions:

Currently in the USA, there are 23 states where medical cannabis is legal, plus Washington DC. This doesn’t include states that limit use to the nonpsychoactive compound called cannabidiol (CBD).

The USA experience is as much a social experiment as medical; one that is being keenly watched throughout the world – including in Australia.

Terry Lassitenaz
Terry Lassitenaz writes exclusively for Hemp Gazette and has done so since the site launched in 2015. He has a special interest in the political arena relating to medical cannabis, particularly in Australia, and addressing the many myths surrounding this incredibly useful plant. You can contact Terry here.

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