individual grade levels. Data from
(whose law passed in 1998) suggestmodest declines in marijuana use among the two grades surveyed in 2004, a slightdecrease in lifetime marijuana use among high schoolers, and a tiny increase incurrent marijuana use among high schoolers.
(whose law passed in 2000) isthe only state without an in-depth statewide survey, but the limited data availablesuggest modest declines in Colorado teens’ marijuana usage as well.
, whose medical marijuana laws were enacted in 2004, havenot yet produced statistically valid data covering the period since their laws were passed.
teenage marijuana use has decreased in the nine years since Californiaenacted the country’s first effective medical marijuana law. Overall, the trends instates with medical marijuana laws are slightly more favorable than the trendsnationwide. California, Washington, and Colorado have all seen much greater dropsin marijuana usage than have occurred nationwide. Overall, Alaska’s and Hawaii’strends are also more favorable than nationwide trends, though some individualmeasures are less favorable. Trends from Maine, Oregon, and Nevada are slightlyless favorable than nationwide trends, although use is still down.
Conclusions and Recommendations:
When states consider proposals to allow themedical use of marijuana under state law, the concern often arises that such laws might “send thewrong message” and therefore cause an increase in marijuana use among young people. Theavailable evidence strongly suggests that this hypothesis is incorrect and that enactment of statemedical marijuana laws has not increased adolescent marijuana use. Consequently, legislatorsshould evaluate medical marijuana proposals based on their own merits — without regard for thespeculative and unsupported assertions about the bills sending the “wrong message.”
Methods and Data Sources:
Nearly every state that has enacted a medical marijuanalaw has conducted surveys on adolescent marijuana use both before and after their medicalmarijuana laws were enacted. We analyzed publicly available data from all such surveysconsidered statistically valid by the agencies that performed them.
Since 1996, 10 states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada,Oregon, Vermont, and Washington — have passed laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Eight of these were enacted via voter-approved ballot measures, whileHawaii’s and Vermont’s laws were passed by their legislatures. (The District of Columbia passeda similar ballot initiative in 1998, but due to congressional action, the law hasn’t beenimplemented.) In addition, medical marijuana legislation was considered during the 2005legislative sessions of at least 16 state legislatures.One argument consistently raised in opposition to such measures is that they “send thewrong message to young people,” encouraging teen drug experimentation. For example, in anOctober 1996 letter to anti-drug advocates, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Thomas A. Constantine wrote, “How can we expect our children to reject drugs when someauthorities are telling them that illegal drugs should no longer remain illegal, but should be usedinstead to help the sick? … We cannot afford to send ambivalent messages about drugs.”