Association of Marijuana Laws With Teen Marijuana Use New Estimates From the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys

Youth Marijuana Risk Behavior Surveys

Youth Marijuana Risk Behavior Surveys

Youth Marijuana Risk Behavior Surveys, In the United States, 33 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws (MMLs), while 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Policy makers are particularly concerned that legalization for either medicinal or recreational purposes will encourage marijuana use among youth. Repeated marijuana use during adolescence may lead to long-lasting changes in brain function that adversely affect educational, professional, and social outcomes.1

A 2018 meta-analysis2 concluded that the results from previous studies do not lend support to the hypothesis that MMLs increase marijuana use among youth, while the evidence on the effects of recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) is mixed. For instance, using data from Monitoring the Future, Cerdá et al3 found increased marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders after it was legalized for recreational use in Washington State. However, these authors found no evidence of an association between legalization and adolescent marijuana use in Colorado. Using data from the Washington Healthy Youth Survey, Dilley et al4 found that marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders fell after legalization for recreational purposes.

Here, we report estimates of the association between the legalization of marijuana and its use, simultaneously considering both MMLs and RMLs. Using data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) from 1993 to 2017, more policy variation was captured than in any previous study in the literature, to our knowledge. Between 1993 and 2017, 27 states and Washington, DC, contributed data to the YRBS before and after MML adoption; 7 states contributed data to the YRBS before and after RML adoption.