Updated on May 29, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
One of the fears that states have when legalizing medical marijuana is its impact on addiction. Many lobbyists, law enforcement, and parent groups assert that medical cannabis in the home can make it easier for minors to access it. And develop a drug problem.
There are more published clinical studies that claim medical cannabis has no impact on drug use by minors. Some studies have found that teens living with one or more parents who use medicinal cannabis are not high-risk for adopting cannabis.
The responsible medical use of cannabis in the home can be an effective deterrent because children are taught how and why their parent(s) use cannabis. They are educated on the wellness benefits. They also witness how medical marijuana has improved the quality of life for their family members in symptom management.
Cannabis faces a constant barrage of stigma across the country—a throwback to when cannabis was weaponized as a tool for misinformation and racial prejudice. One of the largest longitudinal (long-term) studies on the impact of medical marijuana laws and adolescent use have been published. And it paints a picture of responsible service in the home that does not increase addiction risk for minors.
The Abstract On Medical Marijuana: Researchers from John Hopkins University and Harvard
From 1991 to 2015, a research study was conducted by researchers from John Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, and Harvard University. The data was collected from 46 states in America over a twenty-five (25) year period.
In the study, clinical researchers looked at how minors from grade 9 to grade 12 used cannabis. The researchers reviewed the aggregate data from the “Youth Risk Behavior Survey.” The findings of the analysis of the twenty-five-year data on adolescent drug use revealed some encouraging news. The abstract of the study was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse in March 2021.
The conclusion of the study reported:
“no evidence between 1991 and 2015 of increases in adolescents reporting past 30-day marijuana use or heavy marijuana use associated with state MML enactment or operational MML dispensaries. In a constantly evolving marijuana policy landscape, continued monitoring of adolescent marijuana use is important for assessing policy effects.”
Significant Findings of the Largest Study of Cannabis Use Among U.S. Teens
Advocates for medical marijuana applauded the results of the study. The report’s findings go a long way to assure lawmakers that there is a lower-than-expected adoption rate by teens. And the information also helps to debunk the myth that, to date, minors living in legalized states use cannabis as a gateway drug.
The adjusted odds of adolescents reporting any past 30-day marijuana use were lower in states with teens who have legalized medical marijuana programs (OR 0.94, 95% CI 0.89 to 0.99; p < .05).
The odds of adolescents reporting past 30-day marijuana use were lower in states with operational dispensaries in 2015 (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.88 to 0.99; p < .05).
Only 9th-grade minors showed a significant effect among grade cohorts, with lower odds of use with the enactment of medical marijuana legalization in their state.
No increase in marijuana use (heavy use) was reported among minors living in states with legalized medical marijuana.
The timing of this ground and misconception-busting data couldn’t be better. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement Act (MORE Act) returned to Congress on May 28th. The MORE Act passed the House of Representatives in 2020 but failed to make it through Congress due to a legislative backlog. And immediate congressional focus on COVID-19 relief measures.
What Could the MORE Act Change?
If Congress does not change the MORE Act, the legislation will decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. And remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. It would then be a drug that is regulated the same way as Tobacco and Alcohol products.
Representative Jerry Nadler is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He reintroduced the MORE Act to congress. Nadler is a resident of the state of New York. The MORE Act also contains social equity laws as part of legislation to decriminalize cannabis. And a path to mass expungement of American’s with non-violent personal-use cannabis charges.