Bright Spot for Medical Pot: Study Shows MMJ Legalization Doesn’t Lead to Increased Teen Use

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One of the most common arguments against medical marijuana in communities across America is that legalization will lead to a spike in the number of teens using the drug. Pot will wind up in the hands of more youth, the thinking goes, because it is more prevalent, easier to get and more accepted.

While the argument sounds logical – it wouldn’t be too hard, after all, for a cunning teen to steal a little from grandpa’s stash or buy some at inflated prices from the 20-something “patient” looking to make some extra money – it isn’t necessarily true. So says a new study released by Rhode Island Hospital, which found that teen marijuana use was unchanged from 1997 to 2009 – even though the state legalized medical pot in 2006.

The sample size for this study was surprisingly big, involving 32,570 students. Researchers compared marijuana use among youth in Rhode Island with adolescents in neighboring Massachusettes, which still bars medical marijuana.

Esther Choo, a physician at Rhode Island Hospital and lead author of the study, said while presenting the findings at a conference this week that there was no noticeable difference in youth usage rates between the states.

The team behind the study cautioned that more research is needed to see how trends play out over time and in other states that have medical marijuana laws. But the results provide MMJ businesses and group lobbying for medical cannabis legalization efforts with some ammo when facing those opposed to the industry.