What would happen if marijuana were legalized tomorrow?
As the New Year comes so do new laws, especially those that have to do with medical and recreational use of marijuana in the United States. As our social and political landscapes are rapidly changing more and more states are passing pro-medicinal marijuana legislation. Currently there are 17 states that approved of pro-marijuana ballot initiatives, but not all of them have officially approved cannabis for medical use including Arizona, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Marijuana remains illegal federally. People against marijuana seem to believe that if fully legalized more and more children will start smoking marijuana but, contrary to the fears expressed by opponents of medical marijuana laws, and there is no evidence that medical marijuana laws in 16 states and the District of Columbia have produced an increase in adolescent marijuana use in those states or nationwide. Instead, data from those states suggest a modest decline nationally and in medical marijuana states overall, with large declines in some age groups in some states. Only two of 13 states with operating medical marijuana programs have experienced an overall increase in youth marijuana use since passing a medical marijuana law, and both of those states have a small amount of data because the programs are relatively new. This data trend strongly suggests that the effect of state medical marijuana laws on teen marijuana use has been either neutral or positive. California researchers, who appear to be the only ones to specifically study the issue in the context of a survey of adolescent drug use, found no evidence of a “wrong message” effect. Since California voters enacted Prop. 215, the debate over it and more recent proposals has been covered widely on national television and radio, as well as in local and national newspapers and magazines. Early examples include USA Today’s front-page story on Prop. 215’s passage and the New York Times’ 1999 front-page story on the Institute of Medicine’s report on the medical use of marijuana. If medical marijuana laws “send the wrong message” to children, this widespread attention would be expected to produce a nationwide increase in marijuana use, with the largest increase in those states enacting medical marijuana laws. But just the opposite has occurred. National data suggest a decrease in both high schoolers’ current and lifetime marijuana use between 1995 and its most recent biennial survey in 2009. It found decreases in every measure in every high school grade level since 1995. Similarly, since 1996, Monitoring Future surveys show decreases in eighth, 10th, and 12th graders’ past 30-day marijuana use. Studies of lifetime use also indicate a decrease in each of the three surveyed grade levels. http://articles.courant.com/2012-01-16/business/hc-marijuana-traffic-deaths-0117-20120116_1_medical-marijuana-law-medical-marijuana-fatal-accidents
California was the first state to pass a medical marijuana law in 1996. Since then, laws have been passed by Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State. Arizona, Delaware, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., aren't part of the study because those governments passed laws since 2009, the end of the 20-year period examined in the study. Additionally, Maryland passed a law in 2003 that doesn't allow medical marijuana, but permits a person charged with a marijuana-related crime to claim medicinal use for the least consequential penalties. Many medical-marijuana bills have failed, but the legislatures have passed bills that decriminalize possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana. Possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana was punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. There was a medical-marijuana bill that was considered last year that would have allowed people with...
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