Recreational marijuana legalization: Do more youth use or do youth use more?

January 8, 2018, Oregon Research Institute

What impact may legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon have on teen marijuana use? Recent results from an Oregon Research Institute (ORI) study indicate that the influence of legalization on youth may depend on whether they were already using at the time of legalization. Following legalization of recreational marijuana, no significant changes in the numbers of youth who used marijuana occurred, yet increases in the frequency of use by youth who were already using marijuana were found. For teenagers who had tried marijuana by 8th grade, the frequency of use during the following year increased 26% more for those who were in 9th grade after marijuana was legalized compared to those who were in 9th grade prior to legalization. The research results are published online in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

"When making policy decisions about marijuana, it is important to consider how those policies can effect teenagers. Although legalization of prohibits use in those under 21, changes in attitudes toward marijuana, age of initiation, and frequency of use may occur," said Julie C. Rusby, Ph.D., principal investigator of the research.

When Oregon began legal sales of recreational marijuana in October 2015, Rusby and her team were perfectly positioned. Their study examining substance use among Oregon 8th and 9th graders was already underway and investigators were able to collect data about youth marijuana use before and after legalization. Additionally, Oregon allowed counties and cities to prohibit marijuana sales, so investigators examined the impact of community sales policy on teenagers' use. Teenagers from 11 rural and suburban middle schools in seven Oregon school districts answered surveys about their marijuana use, attitudes towards marijuana, and willingness to use marijuana. Their parents answered questions about their own use of marijuana.

The association of legalization with changes in youth marijuana use varied by the sales policy of the community. Youth surveyed prior to legalization from communities that later prohibited sales were less likely to increase willingness and intent to try marijuana compared to those from communities that later allowed sales. Similarly, youth surveyed prior to legalization from communities prohibiting sales increased marijuana use at a lower rate by the spring of ninth grade compared with youth in communities with sales. Youth surveyed post-legalization from communities with marijuana sales had lower rates of marijuana use during spring of eighth grade and increased marijuana use almost twice as much by the spring of ninth grade compared with the other groups. There were no differences for legalization and community policy on parent report of their own use.

"In states that legalize recreational marijuana, study results point to the importance of preventing youth who use marijuana from escalating their use," noted Rusby.

The results indicate there may be an immediate impact of legalization for youth who had already initiated marijuana use because they increased their use after legalization. This was true even in communities that prohibited recreational marijuana sales, indicating that community sales policies may not effectively reduce the frequency of use by teenagers. Research that follows up teenage marijuana use post-legalization for a longer period of time and in different locations could further contribute to inform marijuana . Prevention campaigns that educate youth of the risks of using marijuana while their brains are still developing, and building capacity and resources for parents to discuss marijuana with their adolescent children, may provide guidance as communities and states navigate the new landscape of legal recreational .

Explore further: Pediatric physicians should revisit approaches to marijuana

More information: Julie C. Rusby et al, Legalization of Recreational Marijuana and Community Sales Policy in Oregon: Impact on Adolescent Willingness and Intent to Use, Parent Use, and Adolescent Use., Psychology of Addictive Behaviors (2017). DOI: 10.1037/adb0000327

Related Stories

Pediatric physicians should revisit approaches to marijuana

October 10, 2017
(HealthDay)—In light of the changing legal status of marijuana, physicians should provide counseling on its effects to adolescents, according to an opinion article published online Oct. 9 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Vermont governor vetoes marijuana bill, wants changes made

May 24, 2017
Republican Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have made Vermont the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana but indicated that he was willing to work with the Legislature on a compromise.

Study finds up to one-quarter of cancer patients use marijuana

September 25, 2017
A new study conducted in a cancer center in a state with legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana found that approximately one-quarter of surveyed patients used marijuana in the past year, mostly for physical and psychological ...

Marijuana use among college students on rise following Oregon legalization, study finds

June 14, 2017
College students attending an Oregon university are using more marijuana now that the drug is legal for recreational use, but the increase is largely among students who also report recent heavy use of alcohol, a new study ...

ER visits related to marijuana use at a Colorado hospital quadruple after legalization

May 4, 2017
Visits by teens to a Colorado children's hospital emergency department and its satellite urgent care centers increased rapidly after legalization of marijuana for commercialized medical and recreational use, according to ...

Study suggests 33% of high school seniors support legalized marijuana

February 5, 2015
New research from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs has found that 33 percent of High School Seniors support legalized marijuana and 25.6 percent believe marijuana should be considered a crime. As debate has swept the country—with ...

Recommended for you

Marijuana use may not aid patients in opioid addiction treatment

December 4, 2017
Many patients who are being treated for opioid addiction in a medication-assisted treatment clinic use marijuana to help manage their pain and mood symptoms.

For opiate addiction, study finds drug-assisted treatment is more effective than detox

November 23, 2017
Say you're a publicly insured Californian with an addiction to heroin, fentanyl or prescription narcotics, and you want to quit.

Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction

November 17, 2017
A new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use ...

Insomnia linked to alcohol-use frequency among early adolescents, says new psychology study

November 8, 2017
Insomnia is linked to frequency of alcohol use among early adolescents, according to new Rutgers University–Camden research.

Large declines seen in teen substance abuse, delinquency

October 25, 2017
More than a decade of data indicates teens have become far less likely to abuse alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, and they also are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting and stealing, according ...

Trying to get sober? NIH offers tool to help find good care

October 3, 2017
The phone calls come—from fellow scientists and desperate strangers—with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.