Study on Teen Marijuana Use Spawns Controversy

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One of the predictions used against medical marijuana was that legalization would increase use in unwanted ways. Part of this warning was that teens would use marijuana more after it became legally available through dispensaries. The “pro” side pointed out that any teen who wanted the drug could get it anyway.

Marijuana use for teens remains illegal – even in states with medical marijuana. The question is whether legalization increases use, either because teens can access it from the new medical supply route or because attitudes about using marijuana are changing. After all, if mom’s using it for her back pain, it must be safe.

A study fuels the debate

A study out of Colorado gives ammunition to the marijuana advocacy side. “The best numbers available don't show any greater use in states that have legalized medical marijuana dispensing, said CU Denver economist Daniel Rees.”

Critics were quick to point out what they saw as flaws in the study. Among the criticisms is that dates when marijuana was first legalized are used in comparisons, when the reality is that many states didn’t have dispensary programs until much later (sometimes years). Other states have very few dispensaries or patients—one example is Rhode Island, with 1,500 patients in its program. Unless dispensaries and patient numbers are significant, they simply can’t have a statewide effect.

It is very likely that such comparison studies will be repeated, and perhaps many times. With some states adopting the new, looser laws, and others rejecting medical marijuana, the entire nation has become an experiment to see what the differences may be.

Advocates of medical marijuana want to allay fears. Opponents want to get ammunition to re-regulate the drug. Between the two camps, expect more conflicting studies to emerge. Just how it will all shake out is yet to be determined.

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