APR 18, 2024 4:49 PM PDT

Cannabis Laws Affect Adolescent Behavior Around Cannabis, Not Overall Use

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Recreational cannabis legalization (RCL) and recreational cannabis retail sales (RCR) have affected adolescent behavior around cannabis- but not overall use. The corresponding research letter was published in JAMA Pediatrics

Increased RCL and RCR have led to lower cannabis prices and increased availability in the US, which have, in turn, led to increased use among adults and more cannabis-related hospitalizations. Experts have highlighted a need to assess the effects of cannabis-related policy outcomes on youth. In the current study, researchers examined the effects of RCL and RCR on adolescent substance abuse. 

To do so, they analyzed survey data from 898, 271 students in the ninth- twelfth grade from 47 US states. Data was collected between 2011 and 2021, and included prior month use of cannabis, alcohol, cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The researchers analyzed these results in light of the introduction of RCL and RCR, and the years that followed. 

Ultimately, they reported ‘limited associations’ between RCL and RCR with adolescent substance use. They noted however that RCL was linked to modest decreases in cannabis, alcohol and e-cigarette use. They further found that RCR was linked 28% higher odds of zero cannabis use, yet also 26% higher frequency of use among users. The researchers thus noted that RCR led to no overall change in cannabis use. They noted, however, that RCR was nevertheless linked to reduced use of e-cigarettes. 

“Together, results found no net increases in cannabis or, through spillover effects, alcohol or tobacco use among adolescents in response to the rapid rise of RCL and RCR. Results suggest that legalization and greater control over cannabis markets have not facilitated adolescents’ entry into substance use,” wrote the researchers in their letter. 

“Yet, given the negative health consequences associated with early and heavy use of these substances, and results suggesting users of cannabis may be increasing their frequency of use in response to retail availability, greater attention is warranted to sources and trajectories among frequent youth users of cannabis,” they concluded. 


Sources: EurekAlertJAMA Pediatrics

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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