Scientists working on a new study of cannabis say early evidence from their research suggests teenagers would be less likely to use the drug in places where it has been legalised.
Researchers from Montana State University analysed a raft of health surveys from 1993 to 2017 taken on high school pupils.
Early results show that while overall use has risen among America’s young, the likelihood of teenagers using the drug had fallen by 10% in states where recreational use of marijuana had been given the green light.
Although cannabis use continues to be illegal for anyone under the age of 18, the authors of the study believe the signs they have uncovered suggest fears of mass recreational use among the nation’s young were unfounded.
Currently, 11 states, two US territories and the District of Columbia passed laws to make recreational use legal, while some 33 states and four territories have legalised medical use.
The Montana study sifted through the data of more than 1.4 million teenagers collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with its detailed and far-reaching Youth Risk Behaviour Surveys.
Leading the research, Doctor Mark Anderson said the findings “should help to quell some concerns that use among teens will actually go up” as laws surrounding cannabis are relaxed further.
“It may actually be more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age,” Dr Anderson told Reuters.
“Selling to minors becomes a relatively more risky proposition after the passage of these laws.”
The change in figures, Dr Anderson affirmed, was only noticed where cannabis was legalised for recreational use – not in areas where laws were relaxed for medical use.