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The study has not been peer-reviewed, but it is consistent with previous findings.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.