One of the arguments against the legalizing of medical marijuana is the thought that doing so will increase recreational use of the drug. “What about the children?” is the mantra of many who are advocating for a prohibitionist stance on the drug, and it resonates with many. After all, we should be concerned about our children, right?

Because teens are easily influenced by their peers and convinced to participate in recreational drug use, and because drug use in teens can lead to longer side effects than with older adults, opponents of medical marijuana often claim that it will increase teenage pot use. This, however, has proven not to be the case.

Why It’s a Concern

Outside of the risks of drug use in teens, there are some legitimate reasons for this concern. When a drug is legal to use, it is more accessible to teenagers. When an adult near them has the drug to use medicinally, teenagers can take some and begin using it recreationally. This can, and does in the case of other drugs like prescription painkillers, lead to more frequent use among teenagers.

What the Research Says

Data in regards to medical marijuana has been available for over 20 years. By looking at states that do and states that don’t allow medical marijuana, and the rates of teens that use pot recreationally, researchers have been able to draw some specific conclusions.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that around 21 percent of teenagers in high school claimed to have used pot in the past month as a recreational drug. While this rate may be higher than preferred, the researcher also found no increase in marijuana use between states that did allow it medicinally and states that did not.

This is just one study out of several that show that medical marijuana does not have an effect on adolescent drug use, as opponents have feared. Dr. Esther Choo from the Rhode Island Hospital’s department of emergency medicine, led the study as principal investigator with a team of researchers.

Drug Use Decreases in Marijuana-Friendly Cities

Interestingly, when cities where marijuana is allowed for medical use and decriminalized when used recreationally were studied, researchers found that teen pot use actually declined. These cities, like San Francisco, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Boston and San Diego, had lower incidences of marijuana drug use among teens than before the marijuana policies changed, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Interestingly, recreational marijuana use among teens has remained the same or lessened from 2011 to 2013 according to the survey, in spite of the fact that an increasing number of states have opted to allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes in that time frame.

These studies are good news for those states who are considering legalizing medical marijuana, and for states, like Michigan, that already have. Drug and alcohol use in teens is dropping quickly, and medical marijuana does not affect these rates at all. If anything, legalizing medical marijuana has helped rates to drop, and everyone has been able to benefit from that.