Concerns that the legalization of recreational marijuana might cause an upswing in young people misusing the drug have been laid to rest by a new federal report that finds teen treatment admission rates for misuse of the drug fell nearly 50 percent between 2008 and 2017.
According to the peer-reviewed research published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “medical legalization status does not appear to correspond to treatment admission trends.” This is “consistent with prior research on medical marijuana and adolescent marijuana use,” the report says.
In its totality, the evidence would certainly seem to refute warnings by doomsayers who predicted that ending cannabis prohibition would lead to an expansion in the rates of youth substance misuse.
Perhaps most noteworthy was that seven out of the eight states with the biggest decline in youth admissions to medical care were those that had legalized cannabis.
Nationwide, the average annual admission rate declined from 60 per 10,000 adolescents in 2008 to 31 per 10,000 in 2017, according to the CDC study, which was authored by Jeremy Mennis, a professor at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
To produce the report, Mennis collected state data on teen drug abuse admissions where the primary substance used was marijuana. Dividing the annual admissions numbers by the number of adolescents in each state (from U.S. census data), allowed determination of each state’s admission rate over time.
The report sounds a note of caution however, finding that the national fall in adolescent treatment admissions has occurred simultaneously with a period of increasing permissiveness around marijuana, decreasing perception of its potential harm, and increasing adult use.
These trends “indicate the need for sustained vigilance in the prevention and treatment of youth cannabis use disorder during this period of expanding marijuana legalization,” Mennis noted.