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Since states first began considering medical marijuana laws, claims have frequently been made that the

laws “send the wrong message” to adolescents, causing their marijuana use to increase. Now, more than
20 years after the passage of the nation’s first effective state medical marijuana law, a considerable body
of data has found that those fears were not warranted.

Thirty-three states and Washington, D.C. now have effective medical marijuana laws.1 In 27 of the states,
government surveys have produced before-and-after data on teens’ marijuana use. In 21 states, the data
indicates overall decreases, 12 of which were outside confidence intervals. Only a single state’s data
indicates an increase outside of the confidence interval. Other researchers and health experts have
examined the data in recent years and have also found the data to be reassuring. As an exhaustive 2015
study published in The Lancet Psychiatry concluded, “Our findings, consistent with previous evidence,
suggest that passage of state medical marijuana laws does not increase adolescent use of marijuana.”2

Below is a review of the most comprehensive data on teens’ current (past 30 day) marijuana use in each
of medical marijuana states. In all states where such data is available, rates are presented for all high
schoolers. In states where data is not available, this uses data from the oldest grade with before-and-after
data: 11th grade in California, Oregon, and Minnesota, and 12th grade in Washington.

State Pre-Law Most Recent Trend? Data Source


Current Use Use Rates
Rates

California 25.9% (11th 21.8% (11th decrease (within California Student Survey
(1996) graders, graders, 2017) confidence interval; & the CDC’s Youth Risk
1995/1996) changed survey) Behavior Surveillance
System (YRBSS)

Alaska (1998) 28.7% (1995) 21.5% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS

Oregon (1998) 21% (11th 20.9% (11th decrease (within Oregon Public Schools
graders, 1998) graders, 2015) confidence interval; Drug Use Survey &
changed survey) Oregon Healthy Teens

Washington 28.7% (1998) 26.4% (2016) decrease (changed Washington State Survey
(1998) survey) of Adolescent Health
Behaviors & Healthy
Youth Survey

Maine (1999) 30.4% (1997) 18.8% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS

1
Sixteen additional states have some other type of law that acknowledges the medical benefits of at least certain
strains and preparations of cannabis. Only a few of them have workable systems for in-state access.
2
Hasin, D. et al., “Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the USA from 1991 to 2014: results
from annual, repeated cross-sectional surveys, The Lancet Psychiatry, 2015.
State Pre-Law Most Recent Trend? Data Source
Current Use Use Rates
Rates
Hawaii (2000) 24.7% (1999) 18.1% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS

Nevada (2000) 25.9% (1999) 17.9% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS

Colorado The only before-and-after data available for Colorado is from the National Survey on
(2000) Drug Use & Health (NSDUH). However, the NSDUH advises that data from 2002
and later is not comparable to prior years’ data due to methodological changes.3

Vermont 28.2% (2003) 23.5% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS


(2004)

Montana 23.1% (2003) 19.8% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS


(2004)

Rhode Island 25% (2005) 23.3% (2017) decrease (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2006) confidence interval)

New Mexico 26.2% (2005) 27.3% (2017) increase (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2007) confidence interval)

Michigan 18.0% (2007) 23.7% (2017) increase The CDC’s YRBSS


(2008)

New Jersey 20.3% (2009) 21% (2013) increase (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2010) confidence interval)

Arizona 23.7% (2009) 19.5% (2017) decrease (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2010) confidence interval)

Delaware 25.8% (2009) 26.1% (2017) increase (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2011) confidence interval)

Connecticut 24.1% (2011) 20.4% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS


(2012)

Massachusetts 27.9% (2011) 24.1% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS


(2012)

New 28.4% (2011) 23.1% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS


Hampshire
(2013)

3
Were one to compare the 1999 data to the most recent data despite this admonition, it would indicate a decrease
among 12-17 year olds from 10.3 to 9.08%.
State Pre-Law Most Recent Trend? Data Source
Current Use Use Rates
Rates
Illinois 23.1% (2011) 20.8% (2017) decrease (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2013) confidence interval)

Maryland 19.8% (2013) 18.4% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS


(2014)

Minnesota 16.6% (2013) 15.7% (2016) decrease Minnesota Student


(2014) Survey

New York 21.4% (2013) 18.4% (2017) decrease The CDC’s YRBSS
(2014)

Louisiana 17.5% (2013) 18.8% (2017) increase (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2016) confidence interval)

Pennsylvania 18.2% (2015) 17.7% (2017) decrease (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2016) confidence interval)

Ohio The CDC’s YRBSS does not have data for Ohio after 2013. There is not yet any
(2016) “after” data from the NSDUH (which has a far smaller sample size).

Arkansas 17.8% (2015) 14.7% (2017) decrease (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2016) confidence interval)

Florida 21.5% (2015) 20.2% (2017) decrease (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2016) confidence interval)

North Dakota 15.2% (2015) 15.5% (2017) increase (within The CDC’s YRBSS
(2016) confidence interval)

West Virginia No “after” data available, law is too new.


(2017)

Oklahoma No “after” data available, law is too new.


(2018)

Missouri No “after” data available, law is too new.


(2018)

Utah (2018) No “after” data available, law is too new.

This data should put to rest claims that removing criminal penalties from seriously ill patients’ medical
use of marijuana increases teens’ marijuana use.