In 2006 Rhode Island legalized medical cannabis. Since then, data says there has been no increase in teenage cannabis smoking as many had feared. I’m not sure why people would think medical cannabis would lead to more teenagers smoking, but it doesn’t–at least in Rhode Island. Lets look at the basis for the claims and maybe I have a thing or two to mention about why this was feared in the first place.
First, lets show how emergency medicine physician, Dr. Ester Choo, of Rhode Island Hospital tracked the law’s affect on teenage cannabis use.
The researchers compared trends in adolescent marijuana use in Rhode Island and Massachusetts using the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System between 1997 and 2009.
The analysis of data on 32,570 students found while marijuana use was common throughout the study period, there were no statistically significant differences in marijuana use between states in any year.
This isn’t cold, hard data. Cannabis use remained the same, which is to say teenagers still toked. They just didn’t smoke in higher numbers in Rhode Island after the law was passed in 2006. Since the data tracks until 2009, that’s a good 3 year window to judge the results.
Why were some concerned about a spike in teenage use? According to the UPI article cited, it was because of “increased accessibility and appeal of the drug to youth.” I get the increased accessibility (which is why I have some problems with the Cali issues–but I’ll leave that for another post), but the appeal of the drug to the youth?! What?!
By providing cannabis for medical ailments to alleviate suffering, this will somehow make it more appealing to teenagers? That’s a typically ignorant understanding of youth culture. Listen, kids are going to find out about marijuana the same way they learn about beer and sex and all the other stuff parents try and keep their kids away from until they get the hell out of the house. Kids just learn that ish. For me it was the school bus, and when I started walking to middle school, I found out about stuff at school. Pot is always going to be there.
Where I grew up, it was easier to get an eighth of BC nugget, than it was to get alcohol. Even after I went up to Toronto and got a fake ID, it was still super risky buying beer and hoping you weren’t gonna get caught. Getting a nickel bag off my buddy on the basketball team or an eighth of dank BC herb from one of the 30 or so dealers in my high school was very, very easy. No one was smoking cannabis for medical purposes more than a decade ago.
I’m glad this data is out there, but the logic behind the fear doesn’t make sense. Like a lot of the thinking about cannabis sativa in this country, it’s not accurate or sensible or even helpful. It’s stupid, and anachronistic and it’s simply not working as more and more non-violent first-time users are getting locked up. This country’s prudish reliance on a federal law that originated more than half a century ago continues to do more harm than good. Change needs to happen, and hopefully this can help–at least a little.
[UPI; pic via Tumblr]
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