Among the many concerns of legalizing marijuana is the possibility that decriminalization could lead to increased consumption among teens and adolescents. But is there anything to be concerned about? That depends on your perspective. A variety of issues generate varying levels of concern.
Americans generally agree that teens and adolescents should not be regular marijuana consumers. Similarly, most adults do not want their underage children drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. The concern right now is the possibility that liberalizing marijuana laws is giving young people the wrong impression. There is concern that legalization is akin to inviting kids to use it.
Such Fears Are Unfounded, For Now
All the data we have to this point suggests that such fears are unfounded. At least that is where we stand right now. Numerous studies have shown that states with legal recreational and/or medical cannabis do not demonstrate a significant increase in adolescent and teen use.
One particular study out of Rhode Island shows just the opposite. Despite marijuana legalization and an end to COVID restrictions, youth marijuana consumption actually declined in Rhode Island in 2022. The determination was made after analyzing data collected from more than 20,000 high school students in nearly two-dozen districts across the state.
There Are Legitimate Health Concerns
Even though the data does not point to legitimate concerns about increased marijuana consumption among teens and adolescents, there are legitimate health concerns when young people do consume marijuana. At the top of the list is the possibility that marijuana could have long-term impacts on young brains.
Studies cited by The Cannigma seem to suggest that daily marijuana consumption among young people can lead to long-term cognitive issues. Cannabis appears to affect everything from impulse control to attention span and executive functioning.
The Cannigma also cites studies that raise concerns about marijuana’s ability to negatively impact puberty and growth. Science has proved that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in human development, so there are some real concerns that marijuana’s ability to alter the endocannabinoid system could be problematic.
We Don’t Know for Sure
None of the studies cited by The Cannigma are conclusive. Not only that, but conflicting studies also exist as well. What it all boils down to is that we just don’t know for sure. But rather than take any chances, it is better to err on the side of caution by doing everything we can to keep marijuana out of teen and adolescent hands.
To their credit, none of the states that have approved medical cannabis or recreational marijuana have endorsed teen and adolescent consumption. In fact, they have gone out of their way to prevent it.
In Utah, where the owners of the Beehive Farmacy in Brigham City, UT say the medical cannabis law is among the strictest in the nation, underage patients can only use medical cannabis with the permission of the Compassionate Use Board and under the supervision of a medical provider with prescribing authority in the state.
In states where recreational cannabis is allowed, like New York for example, only adults 21 years of age or older can legally purchase and consume. Underage consumers cannot buy and consume marijuana any more legally than they can alcohol.
Assume the Worst and Hope for the Best
As things currently stand, it is hard to imagine the U.S. will ever turn the clock back on marijuana. The proverbial genie has been let out of the bottle. It has no intention of going back in. So where concerns about youth consumption exist, perhaps the best course of action is to assume the worst, hope for the best, and act accordingly.