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Study: “No Evidence” That Medical Cannabis Access Laws Encourage Youth [Cannabis] Use

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Neither the enactment of medical cannabis legalization nor the establishment of dispensaries are associated with any upticks in young people’s use of [cannabis], according to data published in the journal Substance Abuse.

Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These data, gathered from 46 states over more than two decades, show unequivocally that medical cannabis access can be legally regulated in a manner that is safe, effective, and that does not inadvertently impact young people’s habits. These findings should reassure politicians and others that states’ real-world experience with medical cannabis is a success from both a public health and a public safety perspective.”

A team of investigators affiliated with John Hopkins University in Baltimore, as well as with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission reviewed cannabis use trends in more than one-million adolescents (grades 9-12) over a 25 years period.

Consistent with prior studies, authors concluded, “This study found no evidence between 1991 and 2015 of increases in adolescents reporting past 30-day [cannabis] use or heavy [cannabis] use associated with state MML [medical marijuana law] enactment or operational MML dispensaries.”

Authors added: “Our main finding was that adolescents residing in states with MMLs had significantly lower odds of past 30-day (“current”) [cannabis] use compared to adolescents residing in non-MML states (6 percent). In grade stratified analyses, the 9th graders had 9 percent lower odds, whereas there were no differences for other grade levels.”

The abstract of the study, “Medical marijuana laws (MMLs) and dispensary provisions not associated with higher odds of adolescent or heavy [cannabis] use: A 46 state analysis, 1991-2015,” appears online. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, “Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.”


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 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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