Teen marijuana use is on the rise in Washington state since legalization, and fewer Washington teens have a negative view of marijuana since legalization, a new study concludes.
As Yahoo News reports, researchers at the University of California-Davis and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health have published a study that confirms what some legalization opponents have long suspected: legalization has led to more teens using pot.
Specifically, marijuana use among 13- and 14-year-olds in Washington increased by 2 percent since the Evergreen State legalized recreational marijuana use in 2015. Meanwhile, pot use among 15-16-year-olds increased by 4 percent. Further, it appears that legalizing marijuana has changed some teenagers’ opinions about the drug; negative perceptions of marijuana declined by 14 percent among the younger age group and 16 percent among the older age group.
Washington law allows for adults over the age of 21 to purchase and possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Similarly, adults are allowed to grow up to six plants for personal use, provided they are not in public view. Ostensibly, these laws are intended to keep legal pot out of the hands of teenagers. However, the news study seems to indicate that that has not been the case.
Over in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use, teenage marijuana use has either remained the same or even gone down, depending on whose numbers you choose to believe.
For example, Scientific American reported that teen pot use in Colorado has gone down since legalization, according to a survey by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Specifically, 21.2 percent of Colorado high school students surveyed in 2015 had used marijuana during the preceding 30 days, down from 22 percent in 2011. Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012.
“The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally.”
Similarly, the Denver Post reported the same figures in July of this year. However, the Post compared those figures to 2013 numbers, which showed that in 2013, 19.7 percent of Colorado teens had admitted to smoking pot in the previous 30 days. That’s actually a 0.5 percent increase in reported teen pot use. But Larry Volk, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, called that 0.5 percent increase “statistically insignificant.”
Back in Washington, the purported increase in teen pot use has some pediatricians worried. Study author Magdalena Cerda, writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Pediatrics, said that Washington, and other states that have legalized marijuana, should consider the impact their laws have on kids.
“While legalization for recreational purposes is currently limited to adults, potential impacts on adolescent marijuana use are of particular concern.”
The effects of marijuana on children, adolescents, and teenagers remain unclear. Because cannabis is a schedule I controlled substance, meaning that the federal government has deemed it has “no medicinal value,” it is impossible for researchers to conduct clinically-controlled research studies on the effects of the drug on the adolescent brain.
However, anecdotal evidence indicates that marijuana may have a damaging effect on teenagers’ developing brains, according to a 2014 NPR News report. Krista Lisdahl, the director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, said that the teenage brain “streamlines” during adolescence, getting rid of redundant neural connections in order to make the brain smarter and more efficient. Cannabis use interrupts that process, she says.
“It’s the absolute worst time [to use marijuana].”
Do you believe that marijuana legalization will lead to more teen pot use?
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