Marijuana legalization leads to more illegal use among minors

SAN DIEGO — When a state legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, local residents are more likely to give cannabis a try. While that’s fairly predictable, researchers from the University of California-San Diego say there’s one concerning caveat: minors who are not old enough to use marijuana are also consuming more illegally.

Cannabis proponents claim that legalization does not increase use, especially among adolescents. However, these findings challenge that narrative.

“Our findings provide useful information to policymakers and public health practitioners interested in understanding the consequences of legalizing recreational cannabis,” says principal investigator Yuyan Shi, PhD, associate professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego, in a university release.

This research was observational in nature and tracked a total of 6,925 adolescents and 14,938 adults. The team used data provided by the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health in the United States (PATH).

Study authors report that young people (ages 12-20) were more likely to become marijuana users if they lived in a state that had legalized the use of recreational cannabis. This also held true for adults.

Nearly 1 in 5 have tried marijuana

Marijuana use is becoming more and more commonplace in the United States. Per a 2020 Natural Survey on Drug Use and Health, 17.9 percent of people 12 or older (roughly 49.6 million people) used cannabis over the prior year.

This study examined residents living in four states that allow recreational cannabis use: Maine, Nevada, Massachusetts, and California. Researchers also included another 11 states allowing medical marijuana use, and 17 states prohibiting all cannabis use.

Thanks to the data provided by PATH, this project is the first ever to estimate age-level changes across a nationally representative sample of Americans. This study also features a much larger sample size than earlier research efforts.

“It’s especially concerning that increased cannabis use occurs among young people because of the detrimental health effects associated with cannabis use at a young age, including impaired respiratory function, cardiovascular disease and adverse effects on mental health,” Prof. Shi concludes.

The study is published in the journal Addiction.

YouTube video

Follow on Google News

About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

The contents of this website do not constitute advice and are provided for informational purposes only. See our full disclaimer


  1. Bologna. Flat out lies and a “study” with an obvious agenda by irrational prohibitionist. There is now abundant evidence and proof that in states with legal cannabis, underage consumption either decreased or remained the same. Stop the obviosu, intentional lies and anti-cannabis propaganda!

    There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize cannabis nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

    The prohibitionist view on cannabis is the viewpoint of a minority and rapidly shrinking percentage of Americans. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

    Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

    Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The vast majority of Americans have seen through the sham of cannabis prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

    With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a cannabis prohibitionist to do?

    Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Cannabis Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Cannabis Legalization Efforts!

    Regarding “The Children”,

    Let’s not use “The Children” as an excuse to prohibit and criminalize adult use of a natural plant far less dangerous than perfectly legal alcohol because nobody condones child use, and this is about allowing adults only to choose cannabis.

    It’s our responsibility as parents by to educate our children on drug use. It’s not the government’s job to force Draconian cannabis Laws upon every adult citizen under the guise of protecting “The Children”.

    What message are we sending our children when it is easier for them to obtain cannabis now with it being illegal than it is for them to buy alcohol?

    It doesn’t take the intellect of a genius to understand that stores card kids for I.D. Thugs and gang members do not. They also push the real hard drugs on children. Stores do not.

    Cannabis legalization will make it harder for children to obtain it.

    What message does it send our children when several of the Presidents of The United States themselves alongside a long list of successful people openly admit regular pot use at one time or another in their lives?

    While we tell our kids how it will ruin their futures, and then ensure so, by allowing our government to to jail our children and give them permanent criminal records when they get caught with a little cannabis. Especially, if they are the wrong skin color or from the “wrong neighborhood”. Which in turn, ruins their chances of employment for life.

    The Prohibition of cannabis is the wrong message to send our children while we glorify, advertise and promote the much more dangerous use of alcohol like it’s an all American pastime.

    The worst thing about cannabis and our children is what happens to them when they get caught up in the criminal justice system due to it’s prohibition.

    Protect “The Children” and Our Neighborhoods Through The Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis Nationwide!

  2. There is nothing to it. It is just bs that is put out by the anti marijuana group.

  3. I smoked weed for 16 years of my life since I was 16, I am 37 now. I am glad I quit. I personally saw a difference in my mental stability and physical energy. I feel though people have the right to do what they want to their own body. It should not be illegal, alcohol has far worse effects on you then marijuana and it’s legal.

Comments are closed.