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article imageAs marijuana use increases, societal perceptions are altering

By Tim Sandle     Jan 2, 2017 in Health
Seattle - A new report, seeking to understand if perceptions about marijuana use are changing with the greater liberalization in the U.S., has found the most significant affect to be among eighth- and tenth-graders.
The research is focused on Washington (Washington and Colorado became the first two states to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults in 2012). The influence of the legalization on young people, and in shaping societal attitudes in general, has for a while being the topic of the debate. The research, conducted by the University of California Davis School of Medicine, set-out to separate fact from fiction.
For the research, the investigators gathered data from 254,000 students who were in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades. The students took part in national student surveys, where questions on a variety of subjects were polled. Using the data the researchers were able to compare and contrast attitudes prior to recreational marijuana legalization (represented by the period 2010-2012) with the post-legalization landscape (data from 2013-2015). The researchers were also able to compare the findings with the perceptions from teenagers who live in states that did not legalize recreational marijuana.
The key findings were: in Washington for eighth- and 10th-graders, the perceived harmfulness of regular marijuana use declined (14.2 percent for eighth graders and 16.1 percent for tenth graders). With people of this age, marijuana use increased by two percent (eighth graders) and 4.1 percent (tenth graders). In comparison with states that did not legalize recreational marijuana use, the perceived harmfulness fell by 4.9 percent (eighth graders) and 7.2 percent (tenth graders); thus the alterations in perception differed significantly between those states that permitted recreational marijuana use and those that did not.
However, no significant changes were seen in perceived harmfulness or marijuana use among Washington 12th-graders. This infers a generational trend may be emerging.
The study is interesting, in terms of societal attitudes, however it is limited by the fact it relied upon self-reported drug use and attitudes, as conducted by the U.S. national survey. Even with anonymous questionnaires not everyone provides accurate information. In addition, the extent that results pertaining to Washington state are generalizable to the whole of the U.S. remains a matter of conjecture.
In a statement, lead researcher, Dr. Magdalena Cerdá says: " although further data will be needed to definitively address the question of whether legalizing marijuana use for recreational purposes among adults influences adolescent use, and although these influences may differ across different legalization models, a cautious interpretation of the findings suggests investment in evidence-based adolescent substance use prevention programs in any additional states that may legalize recreational marijuana use."
The findings are published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, with the paper titled "Association of State Recreational Marijuana Laws With Adolescent Marijuana Use."
More about Marijuana, Cannabis, Teenagers, Teens, Perception
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