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When states legalize cannabis for recreational use, area citizens are more inclined to try it. While this is unsurprising, researchers at the University of California-San Diego warn there is one troubling exception: kids who aren’t old enough to consume cannabis are also using it unlawfully in greater numbers.

Study finds more teenagers are using cannabis following legalization 

Cannabis supporters argue that legalization doesn’t really increase consumption, particularly among teenagers. These data, on the other hand, cast doubt on that narrative.

Principal study investigator and associate professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego, Yuyan Shi, said, “Our findings provide useful information to policymakers and public health practitioners interested in understanding the consequences of legalizing recreational cannabis.”

The study followed a total of 6,925 teenagers and 14,938 grownups and was observational. The researchers examined data from the United States Population Assessment on Tobacco and Health (PATH).

According to the study’s authors, teenagers (ages 12-20) are more likely to be marijuana smokers if they live in an area that has authorized recreational cannabis use. This remained true for adults as well.

In the US, cannabis use is getting more common. According to the 2020 Natural Survey on Drug Use and Health, marijuana was used by 17.9% of persons aged 12 and above (approximately 49.6 million people) in the previous year.

Residents of 4 states that have legalized recreational marijuana usage were studied, including Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and California. An additional 11 states that allow medicinal marijuana usage plus 17 states that prohibit all cannabis usage were included in the study.

The first study that looked at cannabis use trends in the US

This effort is the first to assess age-level trends across a national survey of Americans, according to data given by PATH. This survey also has a considerably higher sample size than previous studies.

Shi concluded, “It’s especially concerning that increased cannabis use occurs among young people because of the detrimental health effects associated with cannabis use at a young age, including impaired respiratory function, cardiovascular disease, and adverse effects on mental health.”