Marijuana Toking by Teens Does Not Increase Because Medical Weed Is Legal -- Study

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Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 2:13 PM
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Updated with feedback from one of the study's authors, at the bottom. First posted at 9:03 a.m.

America's teen tokers are using pot at the highest rate in 30 years, we reported in 2011. You might think that the availability of legal, medical marijuana in 17 states and counting might have some influence.

It's not true, say the American authors of a just-released study, "Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use," published by Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany.

There's nothing to tie kids' more-ravenous smoking lately to legally available chronic, they argue:

They looked at data from 1993 through 2009 from the Centers for Disease Control's Youth Risky Behavior Survey and came to this conclusion, according to a summary:

Their results provided no evidence that legalization led to increases in the use of marijuana at school, the likelihood of being offered drugs on school property, or the use of other substances.

The work's a little fishy, if you ask us:

First, researchers avoided the Monitoring the Future data that showed historic high (pardon the pun) levels of teen pot use, which would have suggested a correlation between the rise in cannabis dispensaries and the increase in kids toking.

Second, the research is not peer reviewed.

Finally: It's being presented by the same Institute for the Study of Labor that has put out some pretty weird marijuana science in the past.

The researchers seem to be using their "study" to discount efforts to eradicate dispensaries and keep them far from schools.

Co-author Benjamin Hansen, assistant professor of economics at the University of Oregon, went so far as to say:

... The data often showed a negative relationship between legalization and marijuana use.

Yeah, widely available pot is totally discouraging teenagers from toking. What were these researchers smoking?

[Update at 2:13 p.m.]: Hansen responded to a few of our concerns:

He told the Weekly that the study is actually in the process of being peer-reviewed.

And he says that researchers wanted to use the Monitoring the Future data but that it does not break out its numbers on a state-by-state basis: As such, teen pot use couldn't be measured in states where medical marijuana is legal.

In terms of why pot use might actually decrease in medical-legal states (he says it does), Hansen theorizes:

1. Less drug dealers might supply to youth, as they now start up legal dispensaries, and don't want to risk their business by selling to someone underage without a prescription. 2. More adults might be using marijuana due to the decreased punishments. The increase in adult demand would drive prices up, which would result in a decrease in quantity which teens demand (their demand curve doesn't shift, its just a movement along the demand curve).

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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