Study: High School Students No More Likely to Use Marijuana After Legalization

Highschoolers were no more likely to use marijuana after it was legalized, according to a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

While perceived marijuana use by family and friends was found to increase the possibility of marijuana use in highschoolers, no association was found between the legalization of cannabis for adult recreational use and adolescent use.

“The UMass Amherst research can help inform policy and public health guidelines not just in Massachusetts but in other states rolling out cannabis laws”, according to a university press release.  “One of the million-dollar questions as cannabis policies are being implemented across the country is whether or not youth use increases after legalization”.

The researchers analyzed two waves of data collected by a local substance use coalition who surveyed students at two eastern Massachusetts high schools. When comparing data from 2016, before legalization, and 2018, after legalization but before retail cannabis stores had opened, the researchers found no statistically significant differences in the prevalence of past 30-day marijuana use. Among the 2016 participants, 19% of females and 27% of males reported past 30-day marijuana use. In the 2018 survey, 20% of females and 28% of males reported past 30-day marijuana use.

After legalization, there was an increase in the proportion of adolescents who reported a perception that their parents used marijuana (from 18% before legalization to 24% after legalization), even before retail stores opened.

Perceived marijuana use by a best friend – compared to perceived use by a parent or sibling – had the largest association with marijuana use by adolescents, the research found.

“Policy is very nuanced, and this is a public health policy that is impacting youth in real time,” states the press release. “We don’t really know what all the impacts are, both positive and negative – when we think about the war on drugs and racialized mass incarceration, to what extent does legalizing cannabis ameliorate or perpetuate the harm done by the war on drugs?”

Researchers for the study are hoping their findings will result in more detailed studies in the future,

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