The utmost fear of marijuana opponents has been silenced by new research proving medical legalization has not resulted in an increase in young smokers.
A team led by Columbia University professor of epidemiology Dr. Deborah Hasin obtained data collected annually on 50,000 Americans ages 13 to 18, according to The Guardian.
They found the first US states to legalize medical marijuana already had more adolescent smokers than their less progressive counterparts before legalization was passed.
But after analyzing 24 years worth of information on kids from 48 states, researchers ultimately determined the new laws did not trigger more adolescents to smoke.
This appears to have been the case even if the kids lived in the first states to legalize medicinal marijuana.
The team believes older kids have already established their opinions on marijuana while younger kids became less enticed to smoke following medical legalization, which arguably made marijuana seem less rebellious.
Marijuana use in eighth-graders surprisingly decreased after medical legalization, possibly because the laws have influenced parents to make more of an effort to steer younger kids away from marijuana.
Dr. Kevin Hill, from the division of alcohol and drug abuse at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, noted in his commentary to the research that marijuana is viewed as far less dangerous thanks to legalization.
Perhaps the main concern of many people opposed to medical marijuana laws is that they will lead to increased general marijuana use, including among adolescents. Hasin and colleagues postulated, as many would, that the passage of medical marijuana laws would increase adolescent marijuana use by contributing to the declining perception of the potential harms of marijuana. Their well-designed, methodologically sound study showed that this was not the case.
Dr. Hill urged US states to take Dr. Hasin's findings into account while considering legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.
This research was originally published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.