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Colorado Legalization Didn’t Increase Teen Marijuana Use, Another Study Finds

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The latest in a string of studies to show that marijuana legalization does not lead to increased underage cannabis consumption has just been released.

“Our results suggest that adolescents’ marijuana use may not increase immediately following initiation of retail marijuana sales, which seems plausible given that they cannot legally access marijuana from the retail market,” concludes the study of Colorado teens, published in the journal Prevention Research last week.

“Overall, we did not find a significant change in the prevalence of adolescent marijuana use from shortly before to after the implementation of a recreational marijuana law in Colorado.”

Researchers from the University of Colorado, New York University, Johns Hopkins University and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment teamed up to compare data from youth drug use surveys from fall 2013, which was just prior to the start of legal marijuana sales, and fall 2015.

Frequency Of Use And Consumption At School Decrease

In addition to “an absence of significant effects for change in lifetime or past 30-day marijuana use,” the results also showed that teens reporting that they had used cannabis during the past month did so less frequently and that use on school properties declined.

“Among those reporting past 30-day marijuana use, there was a significant decline in frequent use (i.e., > 20 occasions of use in the past 30 days) and use on school property.”

Another significant change the study identified between the two time periods was a decline in perceived harm associated with cannabis use, but that was not accompanied with an increase in perceived ease of access to marijuana or any changes in perceived wrongfulness or perceived parental disapproval.

The findings bolster the position of legalization advocates, who have long argued that ending prohibition for adults and allowing them to buy marijuana in regulated stores that check the ages of their customers will not cause more young people to use cannabis.

“We did not find a significant effect associated with the introduction of legal sales of recreational marijuana to adults in Colorado on adolescent (illegal) use.”

Marijuana possession and home cultivation became legal in Colorado shortly after voters approved a legalization ballot measure in late 2012, prior to the first dataset in the study. Legal retail sales began on January 1, 2014.

The findings of the new research were consistent across demographic subgroups.

The researchers looked at “change in current marijuana use from 2013 to 2015 by school characteristic including school poverty, proportion of student enrollment that was Black or Hispanic, urbanicity of the school, and local policy regarding retail marijuana sales in 2015.”

“We did not find a statistically significant change in current marijuana use for any of these school characteristics.”

The study authors hypothesized that the decline in frequent cannabis use and use on school property is related to societal changes ushered in as part of legalization:

“It is not clear what accounts for this finding, but we suspect it may be related to the public discourse around marijuana policy leading up to and following the passage and enactment of…Colorado’s [legalization law] in 2012. Media coverage, school-based prevention programs, and public health and advocacy campaigns focused strongly on the potential negative impacts on youth during this time, and there was widespread agreement that the legal market should be inaccessible to adolescents… Therefore, it is possible that those adolescents who use marijuana had more received more attention from friends, parents, or school personnel and may have opted to use off-school grounds or less frequently. This interpretation may be further supported by the finding of an increase in perceived wrongness reported among current marijuana users.”

The findings add to a growing body of research showing that legalization is not associated with increased teen marijuana use.

A federal survey released late last year, for example, showed that rates of marijuana use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders is lower now that it was prior when to states began enacting legalization in 2012.

Another study looked at state-by-state youth use rates and found that state medical cannabis laws did not lead to increases.

The new study was supported with federal funding through the National Institutes of Health.

Legalizing Marijuana Doesn’t Lead To Higher Youth Use, New Study Shows

Photo courtesy of Carlos Gracia.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Science & Health

Scientists Actually Did A Study To Confirm That Marijuana Causes The Munchies

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Science has confirmed that marijuana really does cause the munchies.

More precisely, a new study found that sales of commonly munched on products like ice cream, cookies and chips tend to go up after states legalize cannabis.

To do so, a team of researchers developed complicated mathematical formulas like the one featured below and analyzed a trove of retail scanner data.

Via SSRN.

The study indicates that the “widespread urban myth” that cannabis stimulates hunger and drives people to gorge on goodies is a myth no longer. The researchers looked at retail scanner data in more than 2,000 counties across the U.S. from 2006 to 2016 to determine whether states that legalize marijuana for adult use experience increases in the sale of high-calorie food items.

Past studies on the munchies have relied on data that’s “correlational and indirect,” they wrote. This paper, meanwhile, tested the hypothesis by factoring in the “differences in timing of the legalization of recreational marijuana across states” and specifically comparing “retail food purchases for the subsample of contiguous counties across [recreational marijuana law] and non-[recreational marijuana law] shared borders only.”

The study found causal evidence that legalizing cannabis was associated with higher so-called “junk food purchases.

Shortly after a state’s legal marijuana system became effective, average monthly sales of ice cream, cookies and chips jumped 3.1 percent, 4.1 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively. And that was the case even after the researchers accounted for “state- and pair-specific time trends.”

“The increase in sales starts at the time of the legislation becomes effective,” the study authors wrote. “The effect slightly decreases in the semesters thereafter for ice cream and chips, but not for cookies.”

That’s probably a welcome finding for Girl Scouts in Colorado. The state’s chapter recently lifted a ban on selling cookies outside of “adult-oriented businesses” such as marijuana stores, where the scouts can rest assured they’ll find a hungry customer base.

Study Shows That Bees Like Hemp, And That’s Great News For The Environment

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Study Shows That Bees Like Hemp, And That’s Great News For The Environment

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Farmers (and Sen. Mitch McConnell) aren’t the only ones who are excited about hemp. According to a recent study, the crop also attracts a variety of bees—and that can help inform ecologically sustainable agriculture practices.

For the study, published this month in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy, researchers at Colorado State University set up 10 traps at industrial hemp fields in northern Colorado and collected bees over the course of five days during peak flowering season.

There are few other crops that pollinate in the region during the same timeframe, so the team wanted to know whether the non-psychoactive cannabis cousin of marijuana represented “a potentially valuable source of pollen for foraging bees,” which play a critical role in maintaining “sustainable productivity in natural and agricultural ecosystems.”

When the researchers looked at their collection, they found almost 2,000 bees from 23 different bee genera. Most of those (38 percent) were classic honeybees, but there were also specialized genera such as Melissodes bimaculata and Peponapis pruinosa that turned up in surprisingly “high proportions.”

The sample also indicated that hemp flowers are uniquely attractive to bees because previous reports looking at bee abundance and diversity for crops like genetically modified canola flowers didn’t produce the same volume or variety.

“Industrial hemp can play an important role in providing sustained nutritional options for bees during the cropping season.”

The study could prove helpful as ecologists attempt to address declining bee populations. The insects “continue to face debilitating challenges due to a number of different stressors,” the researchers wrote, but chief among them is the overall health of their respective habitats.

Finding a suitable pollinating crop to improve their habitats is, therefore, critical to the lives of bees and the ecosystems they occupy. Hemp “can thus be an ecologically valuable crop whose flowers are attractive to managed honey bees and a wide range of wild bees,” the researchers concluded.

“In addition, access to crucial phytochemicals through pollen and nectar from diverse plant sources is important for improved survival and pathogen tolerance in honey bees,” the team wrote. “Further studies analyzing the nutritive value of hemp pollen, would provide strong evidence in support of the ecological benefits.”

But the study also includes a warning: as hemp cultivation expands, which experts expect it will significantly since it has recently been federally legalized, there will be an increased risk of insect pests infecting the crop. And so the researchers said they “strongly urge that the information generated in this study on the diversity and abundance of bees on hemp be used to develop an integrated pest management plan designed to protect pollinators while controlling pests.”

Blood-Sucking Flies Love Marijuana, New Study Finds

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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Science & Health

States With Legal Medical Marijuana Have Lower Teen Use Rates, Large-Scale Study Finds

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Contrary to often-expressed fears of marijuana legalization opponents, teens living in states that allow medical cannabis are actually less likely to use the drug compared to those in non-legal states.

That’s the result of a new study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Researchers at Boston College looked at national youth drug surveys from 1999 to 2015—a data set that involved more than 860,000 adolescents across the United States. They investigated how self-reported marijuana use changed in states that have either decriminalized cannabis possession or legalized it for medical purposes.

And while opponents of legalization have long argued that loosening marijuana laws would drive more youth to consume cannabis, the study showed the opposite. The enactment of medical cannabis laws was associated with 1.1 percentage point reduction in marijuana use among teens.

“We found that for every group of 100 adolescents, one fewer will be a current user of marijuana following the enactment of medical marijuana laws,” study author Rebekah Levine Coley said in a press release.

That decline was even more pronounced within certain subgroups. For example, 3.9 percent fewer black adolescents and 2.7 percent fewer Hispanic adolescents used marijuana in legal medical cannabis states.

The trend also held true after researchers accounted for factors such as state demographics and economic trends. What’s more, the reductions in youth marijuana use were more significant the longer a state had a medical cannabis system in effect.

“Some people have argued that decriminalizing or legalizing medical marijuana could increase cannabis use amongst young people, either by making it easier for them to access, or by making it seem less harmful,” Coley said. “However, we saw the opposite effect.”

“We were not able to determine why this is, but other research has suggested that after the enactment of medical marijuana laws, youths’ perceptions of the potential harm of marijuana use actually increased. Alternatively, another theory is that as marijuana laws are becoming more lenient, parents may be increasing their supervision of their children, or changing how they talk to them about drug use.”

States that have simply decriminalized cannabis possession did not experience the same reductions in youth marijuana use, the study also found. There were slight declines in usage among 14-year-olds and Hispanic youth, but the broader reductions were only seen in medical marijuana states.

Patients Are Substituting Marijuana For Addictive Pharmaceutical Drugs, Two New Studies Show

Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.

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