A government survey published at the beginning of the month showed that teenagers were smoking more marijuana than they were tobacco.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention have been tracking teen risks behaviors and smoking rates for a few decades now. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System is a survey that monitors six different types of health risky behaviors that contribute to the top causes of death or disability among teens.
The published results were the basis for a new study that came out today that looked at those same teen marijuana use rates, but only relation to legalized medical marijuana. Economists at three universities analyzed the data from that youth risk survey from 1993 to 2009. They looked at use rates in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, all states that have legalized the medical use of marijuana. They looked at the the data from whether the teen was offered marijuana on school property to see if the increase in medical marijuana in the market led to more marijuana being sold and used in schools. The researchers found no evidence that legalization of medical marijuana increased the likelihood that a teenager was being offered drugs at school.
Daniel Rees, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver said that there is anecdotal evidence of medical marijuana finding it’s way into the hands of teenagers, but there was just no statistical evidence that medical marijuana legaliztion increases probabililty of use. The study has been made available by the nonprofit Institute for the Study of Labor based on Bonn, Germany, and has not been peer-reviewed yet.
The nation’s “Drug Czar”, Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told reporters earlier this year that teen marijuana use was on the rise in part because medical marijuana had been legalized. He told the Los Angeles Times, “We know that any substance that is legally available is more widely used.” While we still have to wait for evidence of that in adults, at least this study says that isn’t so when it comes to teenagers.