Anti-weed advocates refuse to admit this fact about legalization

cannabis legalization

Cannabis legalization opponents often claim that legal pot endangers youth by making it more widely available. However, mounting research is proving the prohibitionists wrong.

A study published last week in JAMA Psychiatry found that adult-use legalization does not increase teen marijuana use. Researchers from Montana State University and San Diego State University analyzed Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) from over 200,000 teen respondents. The study authors viewed responses from 1993 to 2021 in legal and non-legal states. 

“There was no evidence that RML (recreational marijuana laws) were associated with encouraging youth marijuana use,” the authors stated.

The paper was welcomed by cannabis advocates keen to poke holes in prohibitionist arguments against legalization. 

“These findings should reassure lawmakers and the public that cannabis access for adults can be legally regulated in a manner that is safe, effective, and that does not negatively impact young people’s consumption habits,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano in a statement.

More studies reinforce YRBS findings

A second paper published earlier this month echoed the results. A team from Boston College and the University of Maryland at College Park looked at data from nearly 900,000 teenagers in 47 states collected between 2011 and 2021. The ninth through twelfth graders self-reported their “prior month use of cannabis, alcohol, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes.”

The results showed no correlation between marijuana legalization and teen consumption—in fact, the likelihood of youth using weed for the first time went down the longer legalization had been in place.

“Each additional year of RCL (recreational cannabis legalization) was associated with eight percent higher odds of zero cannabis use (lower likelihood of any use),” the authors wrote, adding that opening dispensaries led to “28 percent higher odds of zero cannabis use.”

Cannabis legalization also led to decreases in alcohol and e-cigarette use, although teens who were already consuming cannabis were likely to increase consumption when weed stores opened.

The two papers were in line with a recent analysis out of Washington showing teen use actually declined with adult-use legalization. A Canadian study showed teens found it harder to access marijuana post-legalization. While concerns over teen use are valid, the latest data suggests that marijuana reform may not have negative consequences for youth—in fact, it may benefit them in the long-term.


rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter