Legal States Cut Teen Cannabis Use Disorder in Half

The treatment for cannabis use disorder in adolescents decreased significantly in Colorado and Washington following recreational marijuana legalisation according to new research from the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Coming in response to concerns that recreational marijuana legalisation (RML) may lead to increased cannabis use disorder (CUD) among adolescent youth. Temple University in the United States has poured cold water over fears legalisation would result in more teens abusing the substance. In another chapter of the proverbial think of the children argument, research again indicates that sensible policy and regulation benefit legal states.

Based on data from 2008–2017 treatment admissions for marijuana use for adolescents age 12-17, differences were drawn between Colorado/Washington and non-RML states to "investigate whether treatment admissions increased". The study found that adolescent treatment admissions for marijuana use did not increase in Colorado and Washington following RML, "with the mean rate falling nearly in half."

Unable to pin down a direct cause, the results suggest "youth marijuana use did not increase, CUD did not increase (even if use did increase), or treatment-seeking behaviours changed due to shifts in attitudes and perceptions of risk towards marijuana use."

Describing the "growth of marijuana legalisation" as a "dramatic change in drug policy from previous decades," study author Jeremy Mennis, a professor of geography and urban studies at Temple University said the public health implications of legalisation are important to understand "particularly for adolescents, for whom frequent marijuana use may be particularly harmful".

Speaking with PsyPost, Mennis said, "adolescent treatment admissions for cannabis use disorder have been declining recently, including in Colorado and Washington, even as national marijuana use among adolescents has remained relatively stable". Mennis warns that it may be too early to call regarding the effects of RML on adolescent cannabis use disorder or on treatment admissions. He explains that while national survey data indicates the perception of marijuana as harmful is "declining," adult marijuana use is "increasing".

"Marijuana legalisation can also increase the accessibility and social acceptance of marijuana, so it's important to continue to monitor cannabis use disorder and treatment admissions to ensure treatment needs are met. We might also extend this research to other age groups, and investigate whether marijuana legalisation is associated with changes in use or use disorder for other illicit substances."

In its conclusion, the authors note "this is the first study examining the effect of recreational legalization of marijuana in the US on adolescent treatment admissions for marijuana use." Despite being "encouraged" by the results, it's catalyst remains "unclear".

It comes as the House of Representatives gets ready to determine whether or not to remove Cannabis from the list of Schedule I substances in the United States. With more and more research pointing to its medicinal benefits, coupled with legalisation's ability to enable social improvements through regulation and taxation – not to mention Trump acknowledging that cannabis ballots can "supercharge" Democrat voters – November's election will decide where democracy and cannabis will

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Elliot Nash
Elliot Nash

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