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JAMA Pediatrics study doesn’t
provide enough data to support its findings

Last week, The Marijuana Report covered two studies: “Association of Marijuana Laws with Teen Marijuana Use” published last week in JAMA Pediatrics and “Trends in Single, Dual, and Poly Use of Alcohol, Cigarettes, and Marijuana Among US High-School Students: 1991-2017” published last month in the American Journal of Public Health.
 
The JAMA study found no evidence that medical marijuana laws increased adolescent marijuana use but did find evidence that legalizing the drug for recreational use may decrease past-month and more frequent adolescent marijuana use by 8% and 9%, respectively. The public health study found a 10-fold increase in teen marijuana use, using data from the same survey – the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) – over nearly the same period (JAMA: 1993-2017; Public Health: 1991-2017). The YRBS Survey collects data in the spring every other year.
 
The studies seemed contradictory to us. We wrote to their authors asking for clarification. Here’s what they said:
 
Author of the American Journal of Public Health study, Hongying (Daisy) Dai, PhD: “Our study focused on marijuana use patterns. We provided discussions in the article. Hope this helps.”
 
Lead author of the JAMA Pediatrics study, Mark Anderson, PhD: “Our study is interested in estimating the effects of policies, while the other is interested in documenting trends. I do not see how the two are comparable. They ask fundamentally different questions, using entirely different methods.”
 
In their study, Dr. Anderson and his colleagues say without identifying them that “7 states contributed data to the YRBS before and after RML [recreational marijuana law] adoption.” They later note the odds of recreational legalization decreasing adolescent marijuana use is consistent “with the argument that it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.”
 
But if licensed dispensary sales, rather than the year states legalized marijuana for recreational use, are the criteria used in this study, only four states fall within its time frame.
 
Colorado and Washington State legalized recreational marijuana November 2012. Licensed retail sales began in the former January 2014, the latter July 2014.
 
Alaska and Oregon legalized recreational marijuana November 2014. Licensed recreational sales began in Alaska February 2016 and in Oregon via medical marijuana dispensaries October 2015 until January 2017, when licensed recreational sales began.
 
These are the only states that licensed recreational marijuana sales before the YRBS study ended in 2017.
 
Although the District of Columbia and Maine legalized recreational marijuana in November 2014 and 2016 respectively, and Vermont did so in 2018, none allow licensed recreational sales. (Maine’s governor just signed a new bill that will allow licensed sales as of March 2020.)
 
California, Massachusetts, and Nevada legalized recreational marijuana in 2016 but licensed retail sales began after 2017, the end point of the YRBS study.
 
Michigan legalized recreational marijuana in 2018 as did Illinois in 2019.
 
Dr. Anderson told CNN, "Because many recreational marijuana laws have been passed so recently, we do observe limited post-treatment data for some of these states. In a few years, it would make sense to update our estimates as more data become available."
 
With only four states inaugurating recreational marijuana sales before the YRBS study closed, we agree.


Read Dr. Anderson and colleagues' study here. Read abstract of Dr. Dai's study here.


Note: References for dates that licensed dispensaries began recreational sales in each legal state are available. Send your request via email to nfia@nationalfamilies.org.
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The Marijuana Report Staff
Executive Editor
Sue Rusche
Editor
Nicole Carter
IT Consultant
Lee Clontz
Social Media Coordinator
Margarita Eberline
 
We are grateful to our Board of Directors and Senior Adviser for their support of National Families in Action, which produces The Marijuana Report website and e-newsletter.
 
National Families in Action
Board of Directors

William F. Carter, Chairman of the Board
Realtor Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Georgia Properties, Atlanta.

Sue Rusche, President and CEO, Atlanta.

Richard L. Brown, Secretary
Attorney (Ret.), Lakewood Ranch, Florida
Founder & Chairman, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association 

Jeannine F. Adams, Director
President and CEO, J. Addams & Partners, Atlanta.

Jack L. Arbiser, MD, PhD, Director
Thomas J. Lawley Professor of Dermatology
Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University, Atlanta

William H. Avery, Director
Partner (Ret.), Alston & Bird, LLP, Atlanta.

Margarita Eberline, Director
Strategy Director, 360 Marketing Plus, Atlanta.

Robert Margolis, PhD, Director
Founder, Caron Solutions Intensive Outpatient Program, Roswell, Georgia.

Shannon Murphy, MD FAAP, Director
Birmingham, Alabama 
 
Senior Adviser
Kent “Oz” Nelson, Chairman and CEO (Ret.)
United Parcel Service, Atlanta.
 
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