Today, a study published in JAMA Pediatrics purports to show the legalization of marijuana leads to a reduction in teen use of the substance. This study, funded in part by the pro-drug legalization Charles Koch Foundation, is flawed for several reasons:
- It is based on the CDC YRBS, which completely omits Oregon and Washington – two large legal states – in 2017
- It also excludes young people who are not in school, such as dropouts
- According to the most comprehensive survey on drug use, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health — which includes all young people in households, not just those who gave permission to take a school survey — youth use of the drug is on the rise in legal states while declining in states that have not legalized the substance
- The study was partially funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, which is partially dedicated to legalizing marijuana (like Koch Industries)
“To put it simply, this study is awash with problems,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration. “The data here runs counter to what we see from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health: youth use is on the rise in ‘legal’ states while declining elsewhere. If you truly think that the legalization, commercialization, and normalization of marijuana has led to less young people using it, I have a bridge to sell you.”
According to NSDUH data, the percentage of youth aged 12-17 using marijuana is declining faster in states where marijuana is not “legal,” and overall use is high in legal states while declining in non-legal states. Further, the percentage of youth in this age range using the drug in “legal” states was 7.7% versus 6.2% in non-legal states.
“More research will be needed on this front,” continued Sabet. “A perfect example of the need for additional research comes from this very same publication. In 2014, JAMA published an article purporting that states that have legalized marijuana saw a reduction in opioid overdoses over states that did not. In the years since, this study has been among the key talking points of the marijuana industry and its supporters. Then just last month, a study using the same methods and published in the same journal showed the completely opposite result. When it comes to drug policy, we simply cannot put all of our eggs in one basket.”
To note, the same researchers authoring this study have also previously claimed marijuana legalization reduces traffic fatalities (although the overwhelming majority of state data shows otherwise) and reduces suicide (although numerous studies show use of high potency marijuana is linked with suicide ideation).