Is cannabis legalization reducing teen use?

Published Apr 27, 2019 12:24 p.m. ET

Marijuana use was officially legalized in Canada six months ago on October 17, 2018, after a long uphill battle against government restriction of the commonly consumed plant. Though cannabis enthusiasts are celebrating the victory, others have remained hesitant at the thought for a variety of reasons. One of the most common arguments against cannabis legalization is increased access to the substance in youth. The fear is that marijuana use being regulated would make it much easier for kids to get their hands on either pot or one of the more condensed versions of cannabis concentrate like edibles. This scenario has many believing that the rates of marijuana use among youth age groups would increase dramatically. With fair and even reasonable arguments on both sides of the issue, there was no way to know for certain until after legalization had been in effect for some time so that the numbers would reveal for themselves the possible consequences of a widely available cannabis derived product market.

The study

Cannabis research has been ongoing since long before cannabis legalization, and now that the numbers are officially public knowledge, many firm advocates against marijuana use are now breathing a sigh of relief. One study that took the data from well over 240 000 surveys that were conducted by high school students in grades 1 through 9. Due to the sheer difference in comfort-ability among peers vs. traditional cannabis researchers, the results of this gathering are believed to me on average 10% more reliable than those conducted by professionals. Students were asked to survey their peers in both 2017-18 and from October 17, 2018, to present (2019).

The results

Findings were based on a study group located in Ontario and Alberta including 242197 participants scattered across the regions. 18% of students who were asked if they had participated in marijuana use before legalization answered yes, while only 10% admitted to using cannabis at any point during 2019. The only increase noted was among female students, but the decrease in male marijuana users more than made up for the difference. A second cannabis research study was viewed as a comparison which focused on those who were only 1-4 years older than typical high school students. Though they had a much higher overall admittance to marijuana use (33%), it too decreased to only 27% after cannabis legalization.

In conclusion

Though cannabis legalization is still young, and there is plenty more research that will need to take place country wide to fully understand the implications of legalizing pot, the results appear to show that making it legal decreases youth use overall. What is left for cannabis researchers to figure out now is if this data is a fair consensus that remains true across the entire country. The most significant portion of this study to many is less about the statistics and more about the reasons why someone would choose to use cannabis leading to a bunch of new and revisited theories behind this possible link. Things like financial security, socioeconomic status, and other influences are expected to be even more relevant to the true number of teens that are regularly partaking in marijuana use then cannabis legalization ever could be. Researchers are now focusing on when and where teenagers are accessing cannabis products regardless of their legality. The University of Waterloo released an official statement with these results promising much more in depth and promising cannabis research shortly.


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