Recent Studies Show No Evidence That Legalization of Medical Marijuana Increases Teen Drug Use


Published: 10/08/2012

by Comfortably Numb


Teen Bong

While Federal officials, especially the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, continue to argue that the legalization of medical marijuana would contribute to an increase in marijuana use among teens in the United States.  Recent studies do not bear that out.


For many years, federal surveys found that marijuana is "universally available" to young people, and that it is easier for them to purchase marijuana than it is to purchase alcohol.  In my personal opinion, this policy of prohibition has failed to keep marijuana out of the hands of teens.  If we want to make it harder for minors to access marijuana, I think we need to take sales off the streets where dealers don't ask for ID, and put them behind the counter where proof of age is required.  States that have restrictive medical marijuana laws, seem to have less of an increase in teen use.


Case in point, my state of Colorado's experience with medical marijuana has demonstrated the benefits of regulation.  According to a recent federal government report, marijuana use among high school students in Colorado has decreased significantly since the state began regulating the sale of medical marijuana.  Meanwhile, it has steadily increased nationwide, suggesting that even the partial regulation of marijuana can make it harder for teens to get their hands on marijuana. 


A recent study released by economists at three universities made an analysis of data from the Youth Risky Behavior Survey (YRBS) for the years 1993 through 2009, a period when 13 states legalized medical marijuana, and they found no evidence that links the legalization of medical marijuana to increased use of marijuana among high school students.


“There is anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana is finding its way into the hands of teenagers, but there’s no statistical evidence that legalization increases the probability of use,” said Daniel I. Rees, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver, who co-authored the study with Benjamin Hansen, assistant professor of economics at the University of Oregon and D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University.  Source: 


In another new study "Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use" researchers examined the relationship between marijuana legalization and a variety of outcomes including: marijuana use at school, whether the respondent was offered drugs on school property, alcohol use, and cocaine use.  Their results provided no evidence that legalization led to increases in the use of marijuana at school, the likelihood of being offered drugs on school property, or the use of other substances.  The paper is available online at



Guess that takes another argument away from medical marijuana opponents.