Study: Legalization Has No Impact on Youth Marijuana Consumption

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I remember growing up in the 1970s. I remember anti-drug programs in school, programs that warned us of marijuana as a gateway drug to stronger and more deadly drugs. And while we were being taught that in school, politicians were being warned to not allow a regulated marijuana market out of fear that it would encourage young people to use the drug. It is 2022 and studies continue to show that legalizing marijuana has no impact on youth consumption.

The most recent study to that effect was just released by an organization known as the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR). CPEAR is made up of a group of companies from the tobacco and alcohol industries. They are in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Youth Consumption Doesn’t Increase

According to the study, youth marijuana consumption either declines or flatlines in states that choose to legalize recreational use. Their findings echo those of multiple studies conducted by the federal government, state governments, and private organizations. Simply put, study after study consistently shows that marijuana legalization does not lead to more young people using the drug.

On a related note, the researchers behind the CPEAR report do not advocate adopting a completely hands-off approach to marijuana. They still believe that education is important. They still believe that young people need to know about the dangers of using cannabis before their bodies finish the maturation process.

Strangely enough, the same research showing marijuana consumption among young people not increasing in recreational states shows that consumption among seniors actually does increase. Go figure.

What to Do with Cannabis

The growing body of evidence demonstrating that legalization has little no impact on America’s youth is forcing people on both sides of the debate to rethink things. What should we do with cannabis now that it is proving to be less dangerous than we thought? Continuing to take a strict prohibitionist stance doesn’t see to make sense. But it seems equally foolish to start treating cannabis like water.

THC can harm young brains that are not fully developed. Adult users can be dangerous if they engage in certain activities while high on marijuana. Medical cannabis patients can develop tolerance to their medications. Despite legalization having little to no impact on youth consumption, these other things cannot be denied. Cannabis is not terribly dangerous, but it is also not 100% safe.

Some Regulation Necessary

Marijuana does possess psychotropic properties. It can alter the state of one’s mind. So at the very least, it would seem that some measure of marijuana regulation is in order. Hemp is another matter. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp across the country and, along with it, CBD products. CBD is not intoxicating. So until there is evidence suggesting some sort of detrimental effect, CBD should remain largely unregulated.

Utah may provide a framework on which the rest of the states could build. According to Beehive Farmacy in Salt Lake City, Utah’s medical cannabis program strikes a very good balance between meeting patient needs and preventing a free for all. Their program could be adapted to accommodate recreational-use states.

There are no easy answers to the many questions surrounding cannabis. But we can definitively say that fears about legalization encouraging higher consumption rates among America’s youth are unfounded. In state after state, it just hasn’t happened.

That is good news to celebrate. It is also valid reason to find ways to take the shackles off cannabis research. We need to know more about the plant and what it offers for human health and wellbeing.