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Marijuana Use among Youth and Medical Marijuana Laws

posted on Wed, Jun 21 2017 8:53 am by The Network for Public Health Law

The Network recently received a request from a county health officer for information about youth marijuana use rates, and specifically about whether youth use rates were higher in states with medical marijuana laws (MMLs) than states where marijuana use remained illegal.

In the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a biennial national survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in two (48.4 percent) 12th graders reported having “ever-used” marijuana. In contrast, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual nationwide household survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimated that 39.8 percent of 12th graders have “ever-used” marijuana. Current use rates in the NSDUH were 7.1 percent for 9th graders, 10.4 percent for 10th graders, 13.8 percent for 11th graders, and 15.7 percent for 12th graders. Current-use rates were again higher in the YRBS, with 16.9 percent of 9th graders, 20.5 percent of 10th graders, 22.2 percent of 11th graders, and 24.6 percent of 12th graders reporting current-use.

At first blush, NSDUH data appear to indicate that MML leads to increased youth use rates. The survey clearly illustrates that states with MML had higher average prevalence of youth marijuana use between 2002 and 2011 than those without state licensed medical marijuana programs. However, the survey does not have state level data for the period before several jurisdictions adopted medical marijuana programs, making it impossible to determine whether youth use rates increased in these jurisdictions. When appropriately analyzed, the NSDUH data do not show a significant increase in youth marijuana use following implementation of a MML. Furthermore, YRBS and state-level surveys indicate that youth marijuana use rates have largely remained the same or decreased in most states after MML passage.

The Network provided the requestor with two in-depth analyses on youth marijuana use that provide detailed breakdowns of the NSDUH and YRBS survey data:

Network attorneys are available to answer questions on this and other public health topics at no cost to you, and can assist you in using law to advance your public health initiatives. Contact a Network Attorney in your area for more information.

The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.