Legal Cannabis and Adolescent Use in Your State
An article published in the American Journal of Public Health discussed the opportunity of states that have legalized recreational marijuana use for shaping public health policy related to adolescents.
Because of the vulnerability of adolescents to marijuana’s harmful effects on brain and behavioral development, as well as academic and social functioning, the expansion of these laws in the US should be of national health concern.
The authors of this article were likely unaware of the recent study we posted just last week which showed a significant decrease in perceived harmfulness and increase in use among 8th and 10th graders in Washington state compared to states that did not legalize recreational marijuana use: http://preventionpluswellness.com/2017/01/state-marijuana-laws/.
So while social norms and beliefs regarding marijuana harmfulness are slow to change, we are already seeing signs of this change among youth and adults in the country.
These shifts, along with increased advertising of marijuana for recreation and medical purposes, availability of cannabis products, and modeling of marijuana use by adults, will undoubtedly result in increased marijuana use and harm among youth unless there is an immediate and concerted effort to ramp up prevention and education throughout the US.
The authors of this paper propose excellent areas for improving data collection to not only better understand how the legalization of recreational marijuana affects youth use and harm, but answer many other critical public health questions concerning cannabis use among youth and adults.
However, in my opinion, we already have sufficient evidence to anticipate negative outcomes from quickly changing marijuana legislation. Unless we individually and collectively take bold action to strengthen our prevention, education, treatment, assessment and laws to protect youth from marijuana harm, they and their families will continue to shoulder the negative effects of our changing marijuana laws.
Hesitating to increase resources to address youth cannabis use and harm today will only result in repeating past errors, like our recent failure to take early action to curb opioid abuse until it became a national health problem.
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Read the entire article: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303585