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Report: Legalization Has No Effect on Teen Pot-Smoking

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A new study to be published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that, despite much hand-wringing over concern for kids, marijuana legalization had no effect on teens’ access to the drug in Washington state.

“There was virtually no change in the proportion of teens who reported it was ‘easy’ to access marijuana in 2010 (55 percent), compared to 2014 (54 percent) after the new law was enacted, according to the study,” the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a release.

The report is the latest to confirm that legalization does not flood the halls of high schools with weed.  A 2015 Washington State Institute for Public Policy study on youth access post-legalization yielded similar results, with researchers concluding “[C]annabis use and access among students in 6th through 12th grades have changed little from 2002 through the most recent survey in 2014.”

Also last year, an analysis of teen marijuana use in states that legalized medical marijuana failed to find an increase in youth marijuana use post-implementation of medical pot programs. Teen marijuana use was higher in those states than others to begin with, but laws legalizing medical use and distribution did not have an effect on teen use.  

"Our findings provide the strongest evidence to date that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalizes medical marijuana," lead author and Columbia University researcher Deborah Hasin said at the time. 

National data, too, confirms that marijuana’s increasingly legal status has not made weed easier for youths to find. While the National Survey on Drug Use & Health (NSDUH) for 2014 found about a 1 percent increase in teen marijuana use since 2013, the number of monthly marijuana users was about the same as in 2004 (a .2 percent decrease).

Similarly, NSDUH data for 2015 showed that the percentage of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders reporting marijuana is easy to obtain fell in recent years—indicating, as Jon Gettman wrote for HIGH TIMES, that the “era of [marijuana policy] reform” has not increased teen access.

That legalization will put weed in the hands of children is one of prohibitionist’s favorite talking points, but reality does not lend much credence to their rhetoric.

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