It might be a stretch to say that the medical and recreational legalization of marijuana is good for teenagers.
But it seems clear that teen pot use, even in states with legalized cannabis, is leveling off or declining.
Now a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis concludes that “the number of teens with marijuana-related problems is declining,” according to a summary.
Those problems, in fact, declined by 24 percent, the researchers found. They include drug dependence, school performance and relationship problems, the St. Louis academics found.
They looked at 12-year data for American adolescents ages 12 to 17. The results are being published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Teen pot use declined 12 percent between 2002 and 2013, the study says.
“Those drops were accompanied by reductions in behavioral problems, including fighting, property crimes and selling drugs,” the summary says. “The researchers found that the two trends are connected. As kids became less likely to engage in problem behaviors, they also became less likely to have problems with marijuana.”
So as cannabis becomes more common, teens benefit?
“We don’t know how legalization is affecting young marijuana users, but it could be that many kids with behavioral problems are more likely to get treatment earlier in childhood, making them less likely to turn to pot during adolescence,” says the study’s author, Richard A. Grucza. “But whatever is happening with these behavioral issues, it seems to be outweighing any effects of marijuana decriminalization.”
However, it must be said that by 2013 recreational legalization hadn’t even taken effect in Colorado. And many states didn’t really have legal cannabis, medical or otherwise, available yet, even if voters had approved it.
So this study might be a bit premature.