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Study Shows Recreational Cannabis Legalization Doesn’t Negatively Impact Youth

Ed Knight

By Ed Knight

March 24, 2022

Recreational cannabis legalization in states across America has not caused an increase in cannabis use among youth, according to a new policy paper released last week.

The paper, which comes via the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR), a non-profit with a stated mission to “advance a comprehensive federal regulatory framework for cannabis,” indicated that “state legalization of cannabis has not, on average impacted the prevalence of cannabis use among adolescents.”

“Data reveals youth use either decreases or remains flat in regulated cannabis markets,” the paper said. “Under government guidance, access to research, and increased exposure to community-driven, science-based after-school programming, cannabis use among young people decreases and prevents intake at an early age.”

“In other words, states with medical and/or adult use laws are not seeing larger increases in adolescent use relative to states where use remains illegal,” the paper continued.

CPEAR Supports Federal Cannabis Reform

CPEAR also used the paper to make its case for cannabis policy reform.

“CPEAR believes local communities should be at the core of any effort to reduce youth use and misuse of cannabis. These efforts include afterschool programs comprised of measurable targets on a timely basis,” the paper said in its analysis.

“Additionally, a federal regulatory system should consist of policies to fund community systems and ensure that appropriate resources are available. Finally, a community approach must be driven by data and science to adapt continuously. Implementing federal cannabis regulation will require a comprehensive approach to account for externalities resulting from widespread access,” the paper reads.

The report continued to explain how adolescents are the most vulnerable to cannabis misuse and how recreational cannabis legalization doesn’t cause additional harm to this population. “The most important of which is its impact on youth and the availability of resources to combat any avenues for misuse by that segment of the U.S. population. This policy area is critical as only adults over 21 should consume cannabis, except for treatments proven by clinical trials and a licensed physician has recommended medication.”

CPEAR’s Expert Leaders Support Recreational Cannabis

CPEAR, whose co-chairs are former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and former U.S. House Rep. Greg Walden, “consists of members representing regulated industries, academics, think tanks, public safety officials, medical and mental health professionals, financial services firms, and social equity organizations, all of whom are developing policy and building a national conversation on the federal regulation of cannabis.” 

“Together this coalition strives to be a trusted, science-driven resource for lawmakers and the larger stakeholder community as we collaborate to develop responsible policies that provide access to cannabis while protecting consumers and patients, barring underage use, upholding public health and safety, and promoting equity,” the coalition says on its website.

In a statement last week, CPEAR executive director Andrew Freedman said that the research “highlights how preventing youth from using cannabis requires local communities and stakeholders to be at the forefront of this effort,” and “further outlines the need for congressional action to build a federal cannabis framework rooted in data, correct the current patchwork of cannabis laws, and build preventative measures into place to protect America’s youth from cannabis misuse.”

“Over 100 million Americans live in a state with legalized, adult-use cannabis – but what we should consider is what that means for our nation’s youth,” Freedman said.

Opponents to legalization have long argued that recreational cannabis legalization could lead to more widespread pot use, particularly among the youth. 

However, there has been a growing body of research suggesting that hasn’t been the case in the dozens of states throughout the U.S. that have ended marijuana prohibition for adults over the last decade. 

A study last year published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the legalization of either medical cannabis or recreational cannabis did not lead to an increase in youth consumption. That backs up other pieces of research that have shown no spike in adolescent pot use where recreational cannabis has been legalized.

Ed Knight

About The Author

Ed Knight

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