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Ballot Brief: Marijuana Gains New Ground

Voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada passed historic marijuana ballot measures last November, bringing the total to eight states and Washington, DC that now have expanded laws allowing for legalized recreational marijuana possession among adults aged 21 and older. All eight states (not Washington, DC) have legalized production and for-profit sales. In addition, several states--Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota--passed legislation in favor of expanding medical marijuana, bringing the total number of states with comprehensive medical marijuana laws to 28, plus Washington, DC.

With the passing of Proposition 64, California became the most populated state to legalize the drug for nonmedical purposes. Though marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and it is still unclear how the new administration will respond to state recreational use laws, some believe that California will pave the road for other states.

Researchers are now beginning to use in-depth and well-designed studies to better understand how recreational marijuana laws affect teen use. In the meantime, parents and teachers can prepare to respond to teens’ questions about legalization by reviewing the available research, being familiar with state and federal laws, and having a few talking points ready when students say things in class such as, “It’s legal and natural so it’s safe” and “My parents use, so why can’t I?” We have several articles in this and prior newsletters that have addressed these topics and offer guidance on how to respond to students’ questions and concerns. In addition, there are excellent drug prevention programs (Project ALERT being one of them) that have the changing legislation and emerging drug trends front on their minds. A recent meta-analysis of 30 studies (including 5 Project ALERT studies) found small, but significant, positive effects of school-based prevention programs for middle school youth on preventing marijuana use. And programs taught by teachers (as Project ALERT typically is) were most effective.  Please keep up the good work!


 

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