A new study appearing in a renowned psychiatry journal throws cold water on the long-held belief that states with more liberalized cannabis laws will be more likely to see a rise in experimentation with cannabis among teenagers.
The study -- which is titled "Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the USA from 1991 to 2014" and appears in Lancet Psychiatry -- found that the rate of adolescent cannabis use is not effected by whether a state chooses to adopt laws allowing for the use of medical cannabis.
The results of this study showed no evidence for an increase in adolescent marijuana use after the passage of state laws permitting use of marijuana for medical purposes," the study concluded. "Concerns that increased marijuana use are an unintended effect of state marijuana laws seem unfounded."
The study is not the only one to find little relationship between the liberalization of a state's cannabis laws and an increase in adolescent cannabis use. A survey released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that the number of middle- and high- school students in the state who had used cannabis in the previous month had actually declined four points, from 25 percent to 21 percent, since 2009. Colorado is one of four states in the nation -- plus the District of Columbia -- to have legalized the recreational use of cannabis.
The trend also appears to be taking place on a nationwide scale. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control in June of this year released an analysis which found that 39 percent of high school students surveyed in 2015 had ever used cannabis, down four points from 43 percent when asked in 1995. The number of those who had tried it in the past 30 days also fell, from 25 percent to 22 percent.
The Lancet study tracked responses to questionnaires from high-school students over the course of 24 years. It measured responses from over one million young people in 48 states.
The study also notes that there are factors other than medical cannabis laws that could lead to greater adolescent use of cannabis.
"State-level risk factors other than medical marijuana laws could contribute to both the marijuana use and the passage of medical marijuana laws, and such factors warrant investigation."
Surveys show that support for cannabis legalization has increased dramatically in America over the past several years: One recent survey by Quinnipiac University found 54 percent of registered voters nationwide supportive of legalization.