Licenses for treating juvenile marijuana fell sharply in states that had been legalized, the federal report exhibits

In states that have legalized recreational marijuana, adolescent treatment approval rates for the drug have fallen sharply. This emerges from a new federal report, which also shows that admission rates for adolescents for cannabis abuse fell by almost half nationwide between 2008-2017.

According to the peer-reviewed study published Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical cannabis laws appear to be unrelated to treatment rates among teenagers.

The data appear to refute warnings from legalization critics who predicted that ending the ban would lead to an increase in abuse of juvenile substances.

“Consistent with previous research into medical marijuana and juvenile marijuana use, the status of medical legalization does not appear to be in line with trends in approval for treatment,” according to a study published in the CDC journal GIS Reports. “Remarkably, however, 7 out of 8 states that legalized recreation during the study period fell in the class with the largest drop in admissions.”

Via Jeremy Mennis / US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Author Jeremy Mennis, a professor at Temple University, compiled the report by collecting state-level data on approvals from teenagers who used marijuana as their primary substance. By dividing the annual admission numbers by the number of teenagers in each state, based on US census data, he was able to determine each state’s admission rate over time.

Mennis then displayed the data on a map from state to state, taking into account both the admission rates for the state itself and the direction in which each state had moved over time.

“The map shows both the admission rate slope (i.e. the admission rate gain or loss) and the mean admission rate (i.e. the size of the admission rate) for each state,” the report said.

Nationwide, the average annual admission rate fell during the study period “during the study period by almost half from 60 (admissions per 10,000 young people) in 2008 to 31 in 2017,” according to the CDC study.

While admission rates increased in some states during this period, the countries with the highest admission rates saw all declines. For example, all three states on the west coast had the highest approval rates for treatments during the study period – but also showed the largest decreases in approvals during this period. California, Oregon, and Washington State have legalized adult cannabis.

“All 12 states in the high median admission class saw sustained decreases,” the report said. “10 of these states have declines in the steepest category (states that are colored the darkest blue).”

In some states – Wisconsin, Indiana, and South Carolina – too much data was missing to be included in the report.

What is behind the trends is not immediately apparent from the data. Mennis writes that the possible causes of the decline and differences between states are “changes in attitudes toward marijuana, as well as differences in marijuana use and incidence of CUD [cannabis use disorder]as well as in relation to socio-economic status, availability of treatment and health insurance. “

“Regardless of the causes of the observed patterns,” the report said, “this research suggests a steep national decline in adolescent treatment approvals, particularly in states that legalize recreational marijuana use. occurs simultaneously in a period of increased permissibility and decreasing perception of harm. ” and increasing use by adults. “

Findings are generally in line with previous studies of teenage marijuana use in constitutional states, which found that youth use has remained stable or has decreased, although perceptions of marijuana harm have decreased.

In a presentation to North Dakota lawmakers this summer, Assistant Coordinator of the National Marijuana Initiative of the federal HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) program, Dale Quigley, admitted that teenage use is both nationally and in legal states is in decline.

“For some reason, the usage rate in this age group is falling,” said Quigley, who lives in Colorado. “We’re not one hundred percent sure why it’s sinking. It’s good that it’s sinking, but we don’t understand why. “

Another study published by Colorado officials in August showed that youth cannabis use in the state “has not changed significantly since legalization in 2012”.

A CDC report released the same month found that student cannabis use has declined in recent years after an earlier surge. Lifetime marijuana use by adolescents “increased in 2009-2013 and then decreased in 2013-2019,” the report said.

“We are reassured by the latest results from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey as they show that adolescent marijuana use has not increased in the past decade, despite the fact that more states across the country have passed progressive marijuana laws,” Sheila said Vakharia, deputy director of The Research and Academic Engagement Division of the Drug Policy Alliance said in a statement at the time.

Previous studies looking at teenage usage rates after legalization found similar decreases or lack of evidence of an increase.

For example, last year a study took data from Washington State and found that a decline in cannabis use among adolescents can be explained by the replacement of the illegal market with regulations or the “loss of novelty attractiveness among adolescents”.

Another study from last year showed a decrease in cannabis use among adolescents in legalized states but did not suggest possible explanations.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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