Making cannabis legal for all adults increases adults’ use of the drug, but evidence on youth use is mixed
Yes, marijuana legalization increases adults’ use. Youth use is a different matter.
Marijuana use among adults in Wisconsin has been steadily increasing in recent years, especially among people who are 18 to 25 years old. Youth use has been falling. So what can the experience of other states tell us about the likely effect of legalizing cannabis use here?
In this third installment in our “real facts” series, Jeremiah Mosteller lays out the available research.
First, legalizing cannabis for adult “recreational” use and for medical use both increase the use of the drug among adults.
As for use among those under 18 years old, the research is less conclusive. The plurality of studies — but less than half — suggest it will increase youth use. Fewer studies suggest it will decrease youth use. About a third of studies suggest it will have no effect.
The mixed nature of the findings occurs every year that research has been published, Mosteller notes, and even the same authors have found conflicting results over time. About the only thing that can be said regarding youth use is that have not been dramatic increases in youth use when marijuana becomes legal.
This part of our series follows previous installments:
An introduction to the project from Mike Nichols.
A finding that criminal prosecution for marijuana offenses has become rare in much of Wisconsin, from Mosteller.
A finding that legalization in other states has led to either neutral or positive effects on crime, but an increase in traffic crashes, from Mosteller.
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