More permissive marijuana policies are not associated with upticks in cannabis use among young people, according to data published in the journal PLoS One

Swedish researchers assessed trends in the use of marijuana by adolescents and younger adults in 11 European countries over a 23-year period (1994-2017). During that time, several nations liberalized their marijuana laws while others made no changes. 

Investigators reported that young people’s use of cannabis either remained stable or increased in countries that failed to amend their marijuana laws. By contrast, teen use decreased in jurisdictions that liberalized their policies. 

“This comprehensive re-analysis of all available data from EMCDDA [the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction] does not corroborate an impact of changes in cannabis legislation on cannabis use among young people in Europe,” authors reported. “Overall, since the 1990’s, self-reported use appeared to increase among countries without any policy changes but decrease after both decriminalization and depenalization of cannabis-related crimes.”

The findings are similar to those from the United States showing decreasing rates of marijuana use by adolescents in jurisdictions that have legalized the adult-use cannabis marketplace.

The study’s authors concluded, “There is no evidence as of date, considering available data and previous publications, that policy changes regarding recreational cannabis significantly affect the prevalence of recreational cannabis use among young people in Europe.”

Full text of the study, “Changes in cannabis policy and prevalence of recreational cannabis use among adolescents and young adults in Europe: An interrupted time-series analysis,” appears in PLoS One. Additional information is available from NORML’s fact sheet, ‘Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.’

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