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Marijuana Legalization Spikes Teen Use? Nope.

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For many years, there were several arguments that anti-legalization forces leaned on to keep pot at bay, medicinal or otherwise. One by one those arguments have been deflated and disproven.

As it turns out, marijuana is not a “gateway” to harder drugs. It does not cause mental illness. It is not physically addictive, in the same way that nicotine is.

In fact, states that enacted marijuana laws have seen an average 13% drop in traffic fatalities because people substitute pot smoking for alcohol consumption, and pot use tends to be more of an at-home recreation.

With public opinion softening on pot in general, one of the arguments that the anti-weed folks have been leaning into is that it would lead to higher instances of teen and youth pot use and arrest.

Which brings us to a recent Washington Post piece. According to data collected in American states where pot restrictions have been loosened to allow for medical marijuana, use among teens, and especially arrests, has barely moved the needle.

The article cites a study called the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a CDC program that tracks various risky factors for youth, including alcohol use, dietary issues, sexual behaviors, etc. According to one of the study’s co-authors, Daniel Rees, “the effect of massing a medical marijuana law on youth consumption appears to be zero across the board.”

The Youth Risk Behavior Study from 1993 through 2011, states specifically that there is “little evidence of a relationship between legalizing medical marijuana and the use of marijuana among high school students.”

One reason that researchers think that youth consumption does not go up when marijuana is legalized is that sellers are not willing to risk their legal sales to make a few bucks off underage purchase attempts. As one paper puts it, “legalization allows suppliers to sell to adults with some assurance of not being prosecuted, while selling marijuana to a minor is still a risky proposition even with the legalization of medical marijuana.”

Bit by bit, the legal hurdles to legalization are coming down, as each argument is being studied and refuted in areas that have led the way in legalization.

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Marijuana Legalization Spikes Teen Use? Nope.
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