Marijuana Reform Study: No Negative Effects on Teens

Despite arguments that relaxing or completely eliminating marijuana prohibition will lead to negative social consequences; there is a mounting body of evidence to contradict those claims. According to a study conducted by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, states that legalize or decriminalize marijuana see a drastic drop in marijuana-related citations and teen drug use.

If you want the cannabis industry to expand into new states and markets, then it is essential that you be able to cite and understand studies like this. You have to be able to disprove the opposition in order to be able to reassure reluctant voters and investors that the opposition is capable of popularizing arguments that have no credible basis.

The aforementioned study looked at five different states that have enacted marijuana reform in some capacity. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California have decriminalized marijuana; and Colorado and Washington have legalized it. On average, marijuana arrests declined by 68 percent; it must be noted that Washington’s post-reform arrest records were not available at the time of the study.

However, the most important findings from the study were not arrest records, but rather the effects marijuana decriminalization had on teenagers in California in 2011. According to the study, marijuana decriminalization has no negative effect on teenagers whatsoever; in fact, every teen risk category saw marked improvement. Here are some of the findings.

  • Violent deaths declined by four percent, compared to the national average of one percent.
  • Drug overdose deaths declined by 20 percent; the national average increased one tenth of a percent.
  • Property crime arrests declined by 25 percent, compared to the national average of 14 percent
  • DWI marijuana arrests declined by three percent, while the national average actually increased by nine percent. Also, California is more thorough with drug testing drivers than other states, so their data can be seen as more accurate than other states.
  • Teen dropout rates declined by 20 percent; there was no national data for comparison.

Now, no one is saying that marijuana has directly influenced these statistics, but it does directly refute claims that marijuana will lead to negative social consequences. When combined with the fact that traffic fatalities and teen marijuana use in Colorado have declined since legalization, it is becoming hard to argue against legalization. At best, marijuana reform improves our society to some extent, and at worst, it has no negatives.  Regardless of your feelings, numbers do not lie.

If you are asking why the study did not look at Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, or Colorado as much as it examined California, it is because those states did not have as much available data as California. Instead of creating a piecemeal comparison, the researchers chose to focus on the state with the most information.

Interestingly enough, while the study debunks a lot of claims that prohibitionists make, it also pokes a hole in an argument many marijuana advocates make. The study concluded that marijuana reform does not reduce racial disparities. While arrests for both groups drastically declined, African Americans are 4.9 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites. Sadly, marijuana reform does little to bring about racial justice.

With the November election only a few weeks away, this study is the kind of thing that needs to be shared, especially in Florida, where Amendment 2 looks like it is in trouble. If you want the industry to expand, and new markets to open up, then it is time to spread the word. Marijuana is not going to solve all of our societal ills, but at least we can fix some unnecessary problems by ending an unjust law.

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