Concerns that legalizing marijuana would result in negative public health consequences for anyone aged 18 and over in Canada have not materialized, according to an analysis published in the Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
The analysis finds that there has been “no significant increase in juvenile cannabis users” in the three years following legalization. The authors also highlight the positive societal effects of reducing marijuana-related arrests among adults and adolescents after the policy change. The regulation of marijuana has also led to more targeted public health messages, the authors suggest.
They conclude: “In the run-up to legalization, professional associations … suggested that legalization posed a public health hazard, advocated that the minimum age for cannabis use be set at 21 or 25, or that Canada should not legalize at all because it would put the youth at greater risk of harm. Since such categorical fears have now proven to be largely unfounded, this should be the basis for more differentiated steps. … [O]The bottom line is that cannabis legalization – especially given the serious negative social impact of criminalization, and especially on youth – continues to have the potential to better protect and derive net benefits for the public health and well-being of cannabis users and society at large. “
Erik Altieri, Executive Director of NORML, commented on the data: “From a public health perspective, regulation and education are preferable strategies to criminalization. Overall, legalization for adults works largely as voters and politicians imagined, which is why more and more legal systems are shifting their policies in this direction. “
Separate assessments of Canada’s legalization policy have found no increase in the percentage of marijuana-related car accidents, and no changes in cannabis use or access among higher-risk teens. Additional data published in Health Reports in April shows Canadians are rapidly moving from the illegal market to the legal market – an estimated 70 percent of cannabis users now say they obtained the plant from legal sources.
Analyzes of federal laws regulating adult use in the United States also found no significant increases in youth use or access that could be due to legalization. Other studies have found no association between legalization laws and increases in drug treatment intake, violent crime, or deaths from overdose.
The full text of the study, Youth Cannabis Use and Legalization in Canada – Rethinking Fears, Myths, and Facts in Three Years appears in the Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. For more information, see the NORML factsheet “Marijuana Regulation: Impact on Health, Safety and the Economy”.