Young people living in localities with operational medical cannabis dispensaries are no more likely than their counterparts to consume marijuana, according to data published in the journal Cannabis.

Researchers affiliated with the University of Illinois assessed the relationship between state-licensed dispensaries and teen marijuana use in a midwestern state over a three-year period. They reported lower rates of teen cannabis use in zip codes with medical cannabis dispensaries as compared to those localities without dispensaries.

Authors concluded: “This study showed the association of adolescent cannabis use and the presence of a dispensary at the zip code level, which may be more precise than taking a state average for cannabis prevalence, as done in national studies. … This study found no evidence for increased cannabis use among youth living in zip codes with active medical cannabis dispensaries. In fact, 12th graders living in zip codes with dispensaries had lower past-year and past-30-day cannabis use. Additional research should monitor how evolving cannabis policies influence adolescent cannabis use.”    

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “These latest findings add to the growing body of scientific literature showing that marijuana can be successfully regulated in a manner that provides access for patients and adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse.”        

The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other analyses failing to identify a link between state-level cannabis legalization and increasing marijuana use by adolescents. Data compiled by the RAND Corporation and the University of Southern California in 2021 similarly reported that young adults living near cannabis retailers express no greater intentions to consume cannabis in the future than do their peers.

The full text of the study, “Adolescent cannabis use among youth in zip codes with medical dispensaries,” appears in Cannabis. Additional information is available from NORML’s fact-sheet, ‘Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.’

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