A common concern among the general public, parents especially, is that once a draft calling for legalizing marijuana goes through, this will have as an effect increased consumption among adolescents. A  new study at Rhode Island Hospital which compared 20 years worth of data from states with and without medical marijuana laws found, however, that there was no statistically relevant cause to the claim. As such, legalizing the drug did not lead to increased use among adolescents. The findings could prove to be important in pushing medical marijuana legalization in other states in the U.S.A. that have yet to take this step.

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“Any time a state considers legalizing medical marijuana, there are concerns from the public about an increase in drug use among teens,” said principal investigator Esther Choo, M.D., an attending physician in the department of emergency medicine at Rhode Island Hospital. “In this study, we examined 20 years worth of data, comparing trends in self-reported adolescent marijuana use between states with medical marijuana laws and neighboring states without the laws, and found no increase in marijuana use that could be attributed to the law.”

The study looked at a sample of 32,750 high school students. As expected, some 21% of the participants admitted to using marijuana at least once in the past month. However, there didn’t seem to be any statistical differences in use before or after medical marijuana was legalized. This was known to most people already intuitively – kids will smoke pot whether it’s legal or not, if they want to.

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Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

“This adds to a growing body of literature published over the past three years that is remarkably consistent in demonstrating that state medical marijuana policies do not have a downstream effect on adolescent drug use, as we feared they might,” Choo said.

Findings were reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health.