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February 2017

Understanding the Full Effect of the Changing Legal Status of Marijuana on Youth: Getting It Right

Author Affiliations
  • 1Student Health and Wellness Center, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 3Associate Editor, JAMA Pediatrics
JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(2):115-116. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.3920

Imagine you are invited to testify before your state legislature about how legislation decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana use by adults 21 years and older in the state would affect those younger than 21 years. Alternatively, as an expert on child and adolescent health, you are asked to summarize the current evidence on whether medical marijuana laws affect youth perceptions of the risk of using marijuana at a grand rounds presentation. What would you say?

As this is written, 1 month before the November 2016 elections, 21 states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use,1 and 4 additional states and Washington, DC, have legalized the use of small amounts for recreational use.1 Measures to legalize marijuana use are on the November ballot in 5 other states. Twenty-five states and Washington, DC, have enacted medical marijuana laws.2 Clearly, the United States is undergoing a profound shift in the legal status of marijuana, although these changes—current and proposed—are limited to changes in legal status for those 21 years and older.

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