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Press Release: New Report Finds Teen Marijuana Use Down in States With Medical Marijuana Laws

A newly updated analysis released June 16, coauthored by Dr. Mitch Earleywine, associate professor of psychology at the Albany campus of the State University of New York, shows that state medical marijuana laws have not increased teen marijuana use, despite fears that have been raised when such measures are considered. Teen marijuana use has consistently declined in states with medical marijuana laws, and generally more markedly than national averages.

The report, based entirely on data from federal and state government-funded drug use surveys, is available at http://www.mpp.org/teens/.

In New York, medical marijuana legislation passed the state Assembly last year, and the issue awaits Senate action.

"Opponents of medical use of marijuana regularly argue that such laws 'send the wrong message to children,' but there is just no sign of that effect in the data," said Dr. Earleywine, a substance abuse researcher and author of the acclaimed book, "Understanding Marijuana" (Oxford University Press, 2002). "In every state for which there's data, teen marijuana use has gone down since the medical marijuana law was passed, often a much larger decline than nationally."

In California, which passed the first effective medical marijuana law in 1996, marijuana use has declined sharply among all age groups. Among ninth-graders, marijuana use in the past 30 days ("current use" as defined in the surveys) declined by 47 percent from 1995-96 to 2005-06, the latest survey results available.

A similar pattern is emerging in the states with newer medical marijuana laws. Vermont and Montana, whose medical marijuana laws were enacted in 2004, have seen declines in current marijuana use of 15 percent and 9 percent, respectively. In Rhode Island, whose medical marijuana law took effect in January 2006, current use declined 7 percent from 2005 to 2007. There are no before-and-after data available yet from New Mexico, whose medical marijuana law was passed last year. Overall, declines in teen marijuana use in the 11 medical marijuana states for which data are available have slightly exceeded the national trends.

With more than 23,000 members and 180,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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