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Cannabis legalization and teens – The Examiner Reports on New Research Findings
One of the common arguments which opponents of Cannabis legalization like to bandy about is that marijuana has the potential to be a gateway drug. Fears are that the marijuana curious may resort to harder illegal drugs, including heroin, crystal meth and cocaine. There are also concerns that legalizing cannabis would result in increased teen use of cannabis.
According to news reports, these views are based on antiquated studies, the merits of which hold little water. If anything, a recent study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows no direct evidence linking cannabis legalization to increased marijuana use among teens. The situation could be likened to that of legalizing same sex marriages in that this did not result in an increase in homosexuals.
Recent studies and modern trends
A separate comprehensive study on teen behavior was concluded as recently as 2015. The study was conducted nationwide across the US and was not restricted to information from selected states. The study took into account behavioral tendencies accumulated from over a million teenagers using data which spans more than two decades.
One clear fact derived from the study stands out above the rest and flies directly in the face of previously held misconceptions. It came as a surprise to researchers that cannabis legalization has resulted in a reduced number of teen cannabis users.
Cannabis legalization versus black market enterprises
Proponents of marijuana legalization argue that teenagers determined to make use of recreational marijuana will turn to risky black market sources. One of the benefits of cannabis legalization is that recreational users no longer have to rely on the drug cartels to supply their weed.
Experts agree that legalization is creating a situation which not only provides safer access, but also one which has seen the drug lords losing out on a lot of revenue, hurting the illegal drug trade.
A further plus is that valuable state resources are freed up. With police spending less time focusing on petty cannabis possession incidents among teens, more time can be devoted to solving serious crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery.
Research conducted by the University of Texas in 2014 has shown that cannabis legalization can in fact reduce the number of serious crimes. Robert Morris, the lead author of the study has stated that no direct evidence could be found to show an increase in the levels of violent crimes for states that had gone the legalization route.
Cognition and school performance
At present there is insufficient evidence available to determine if medical cannabis legislation and use will impact on mental cognition and school performance among teens. One thing which is of importance is that education as to the dangers of chronic marijuana consumption needs to be taught from a young age.
As law enforcement approaches regarding the control of cannabis are relaxed, so too should there be increased efforts to reduce the negative consequences of teenage marijuana consumption. These should at least be on a level which is commensurate with current tobacco and alcohol controls and awareness programs.
There is no denying that any conversation surrounding the topic of cannabis legalization is bound to be fraught with controversy for many years to come. While many arguments against cannabis legalization appear to be groundless, so too are there many valid points which require further analysis.
Until such stage as science manages to establish clear ground, it seems unlikely that the proponents of marijuana legalization will be free of the heckling crowds. At the end of the day, most responsible parents, no matter how much they disapprove of recreational marijuana use, would rather their kids partake in a safe and controlled environment rather than be exposed to life threatening situations at the hands of some dodgy cartel.