Medical Marijuana

Study: Medical Marijuana Doesn't Make the Kids More Reefer-Mad in Rhode Island


Rhode Island has legal medical marijuana, Massachusetts does not, and a new study which compares usage of the drug in those states suggest that the kids are not encouraged to further toke just because their cancer, glaucoma, or anxiety-ridden relative are legally and medicinally doing so.

The study has not been peer-reviewed, but it is consistent with previous findings. Occasional Reason contributor Maia Szalavitz wrote on

"We wanted to pair these two states because they have so much in common culturally and geographically," says Dr. Esther Choo, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School and emergency medicine physician at Rhode Island Hospital.

Choo's analysis used data collected from 1997 to 2009 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The analysis involved nearly 13,000 youth in Rhode Island and about 25,000 in Massachusetts. In each state in any given year, the study found, about 30% of youth reported using marijuana at least once in the previous month.

In other words, while marijuana use was common, there was no significant difference in rates of pot use between the years before and after legalization in Rhode Island. "We found no effect of the policy change," says Choo.


"Whether they are taking it for pain or for vomiting control or appetite, this is not a group we think of as superinspiring for young people to take up their drug pattern. It's an older population who is generally very ill," says Choo.

In September, Jacob Sullum nicely refuted some scare mongering from Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), who said in response to a very slight rise in marijuana usage between 2009 and 2010 that "People keep calling it medicine…and that's the wrong message for young people to hear." Kerlikowske has often expressed deep concern over sick people making weed look super cool, even if he recently admitted that there might be some medical benefits to the drug after all.

Sullum also wondered in June:

The government permits medical use of many drugs that can be used to get high. Does giving morphine to cancer patients or Adderall to narcoleptics "send the wrong message to young people"?

Reason on medical marijuana. 

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  1. Based on the lack of outrage, I’m assuming soccer isn’t big in RI.

    1. Watching soccer probably isn’t, but all across New England playing it is, because the schools are too small to field football teams, because they’re usually town schools and the towns are mostly small. So soccer and basketball get all the athletes.

      1. I…DON’T…CARE!

        LET’S DANCE!


      2. How small are these towns? I grew up in the middle of rural Nevada, and our schools have no problem fielding a full football team; my town had less than 4,000 people in it, and we still had around 60 kids playing JV or Varsity football each season.

        Occasionally, our JV would play Austin, NV, which is a 1A school (we were 2A), and even they were able to field a team, though they played 9 man instead of 11 man ball. Those towns would have to be freaking tiny not to be able to do that.

  2. …soccer isn’t big in RI.

    Thank Jesus. Soccer is the most boring “sport” ever. Hey Sloopy!

    1. Baseball – the game designed to encourage you to leave your seat for a beer at any time during the game.

      1. Feature. Definitely feature.

  3. The Earlywine study is excellent, but it’s amazing how many people shut down for anything published or sponsored by any cannabis law reform advocacy group. These people wouldn’t believe that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west were NORML or MPP to post it on their website.

    To the rescue is the Winter 2011 edition of California Pediatrician, which has an article about medicinal cannabis and it’s effects/use for pediatric patients. The article does document the fact that not a single medicinal cannabis State has suffered a statistically significant increase in the incidence of cannabis use by youth. The article does mistakenly say that Michigan did suffer a statistically significant increase in 2008 over 2007 co-incidental with passing its law. It seems the author missed the fact that Michigan’s medicinal cannabis patient protection law was passed in November 2008 and not implemented until April of 2009 so the law was hardly the culprit. Pediatrician – Winter 2011.pdf

    1. It does require the entire url.….. 2011.pdf

  4. Thank GOD we have an administration run by people who respect science. I’m sure we can count on some action now!

    [pfffffffffftttttttt….. ahhhhhhhhhh]

  5. Rhode Island allows state-registered patients suffering from one of a short list of debilitating ailments to use marijuana.

    California allows any 18-year-old suffering from insomnia or anxiety to get a 215 card for 75 bucks and then stock up weed at the next-door co-op.

    If a study shows the latter law doesn’t affect youth marijuana use, then you might be proving something interesting.

    1. I would be genuinely surprised to learn that an adult who goes to the trouble of getting a medpot card wouldn’t be smoking without the card.

      I would also be genuinely surprised that allowing adults to get these cards is somehow increasing the number of kids who smoke.

      1. You’d think, but ease of access and “normalization” count too. Hey, we’re running the experiment today.

        It wasn’t worth the side-effects — or even a good idea on principle — but Prohibition did cut alcohol use, you know.

  6. Lucy, I’m kind of surprised you haven’t written about this.

  7. President Obama promise of “Hope” and “Change”

    I respectfully suggest that you issue their full pardon to all cannabis prisoners

    Mr. President Obama, I am hereby respectfully requesting that your exercise your executive privilege as President of the United States and that you grant full pardons, vindication and subsequent removal of their felony convictions of all cannabis prisoners


    u?op ?p?sdn p?u?n? p??o? ???

  8. I think taxation sends the wrong message to young people. Let’s ban that.

  9. And yet, the government believes that they send the right message when schools give Ritalin to school kids with the directs: “Take this pill. It will raise your grades.”

  10. Milton Friedman explains drug prohibition like no other can and the theory is evident in Portugal.

  11. I think Medical Marijuana should be allowed to minors, if we its consumed via some medical recipes and not by smoking it.

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