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“No Evidence” that Adult-Use [Cannabis] Laws Influence Cannabis Use by Teens

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The enactment of statewide laws legalizing and regulating the use and sale of marijuana by adults are not independently associated with an uptick in cannabis use by young people, according to data published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “These latest findings add to the growing body of scientific literature showing that legalization policies can be implemented in a manner that provides access for adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse. Furthermore, these findings stand in sharp contrast to the sensational claims often made by legalization opponents, claims that thus far have proven to be baseless.”

A team of investigators affiliated with Boston College analyzed [cannabis] use data from a nationally representative sample of more than one million high-school students over an 18-year period.

Authors “found no evidence that RML [recreational [cannabis] legalization] was associated with [an] increased likelihood or level of [cannabis] use among adolescents. Rather, among adolescents who reported any use of [cannabis] in the past month, the frequency of use declined by 16 percent after RML.”

Data compiled last week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of adolescents admitted to drug treatment programs for [cannabis]-related issues has fallen precipitously in states that have legalized and regulated its adult-use.

In addition, a 2019 study published in JAMA Pediatrics similarly concluded: “Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical [cannabis] encourages [cannabis] use among youth. Moreover, the estimates reported … showed that [cannabis] use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes. This latter result is consistent … with the argument that it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain [cannabis] as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.”

Additional information regarding [cannabis] use patterns among young people is available from the NORML fact-sheet here.


NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of [cannabis] by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use [cannabis] responsibly are no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for [cannabis]-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.

Find out more at and read our Fact Sheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country.

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