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Teen Pot Use has not Increased Since Legalizing Medicinal Marijuana

Update Date: Apr 24, 2014 11:02 AM EDT

Even though marijuana is still illegal according to the federal government, medicinal marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized in at least 20 states and the District of Columbia. With more dispensaries opening up, some people might be concerned about marijuana use and accessibility. However, a new study found that after medical cannabis was legalized in certain states, the incidence rate of teens that smoke pot has not increased.

"Our study suggests that - at least thus far - the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has not increased adolescent marijuana use, a finding supported by a growing body of literature," the authors, headed by Esther K. Choo, from Brown University's Alpert Medical School, wrote reported by the Washington Post.

Choo and colleagues examined data on reported marijuana use in states where medicinal marijuana is legal. The data, which were gathered through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's anonymous Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System survey, included rates before and after weed was legalized for medical purposes. The survey is given every year to students attending grades nine through 12.

The researchers found that even though teen pot use is still quite common, the rates did not increase in any of the states that legalized medicinal marijuana. One-third of the teens reported trying weed and one-fifth admitted to smoking weed within the past month. The researchers noted that marijuana use has been tied to "permanent detrimental effects on cognition. Marijuana has also been linked to schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders among adolescents. Longitudinal cohort studies of adolescents using marijuana found associations between use and later respiratory problems, general malaise, and neurocognitive problems, as well as social problems including lower academic achievement and functioning." The authors, however, did not advocate anything related to marijuana legislation in their study.

The study, "The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Legislation on Adolescent Marijuana Use," was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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