Medical Marijuana Does Not Increase Teen Drug Use

By Amir Khan on June 19, 2012 12:55 PM EDT

Marijuana
The distinctive five-leaf structure of a marijuana plant is seen as it grows in a medical marijuana center in Denver (Photo: Reuters)

The surge in medical marijuana legalization has not played a role in the recent rise of teen marijuana use, according to a new study, published by the Institute for the Study of Labor, a private, non-profit independent research institute based in Bonn, Germany.

Over the past 13 years, marijuana use among teens has increased steadily, to the point where one in 15 high school students admit to using the drug daily or near-daily. The increase, however, does not coincide with the increase in medical marijuana legalization.

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"There is anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana is finding its way into the hands of teenagers," Daniel I. Rees, study coauthor and a professor of economics at the University of Colorado, said in a statement. "But there's no statistical evidence that legalization increases the probability of use."

Federal officials have claimed that legalizing medical marijuana has contributed to the rise and has started shutting down dispensaries near schools. But researchers looked at data from the Youth Risky Behavior Survey between 1993 and 2009 and found that the increase does not exist.

"This result is important given that the federal government has recently intensified its efforts to close medical marijuana dispensaries," Benjamin Hansen, study coauthor and assistant professor of economics at the University of Oregon, said in a statement. "In fact, the data often showed a negative relationship between legalization and marijuana use."

In the United States, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration, which means it "has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision." However, medical marijuana is legal in 19 states.

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