Study: Illinois Teenagers Living Near Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Less Likely to Consume Cannabis

Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found that teenagers living in ZIP codes with operating medical cannabis dispensaries are less likely to consume cannabis than teenagers who live in areas without them.

Full story after the jump.

Teenagers in Illinois who live in ZIP codes that have medical cannabis dispensaries are less likely to consume cannabis than those who live in areas without them, according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign published in the journal Cannabis.   

Using data from the Illinois Youth Survey, the researchers found that about 18.3% of the youths living in Illinois ZIP codes with medical dispensaries reported consuming cannabis during the prior year compared with 22.4% of those who lived in ZIP codes without the businesses. 

In a statement, Doug Smith, director of the U. of I. Center for Prevention Research and Development, called the study’s findings “good news,” noting that “there are still reasons to be cautious and continue monitoring things.”  

“The good news is that it looks like in Illinois there was no immediate impact on adolescent substance use rates after medical dispensaries came on. In fact, we found that across the whole sample, those who lived in a ZIP code with a dispensary were less likely to have used cannabis during the past 30 days or one year.” — Smith in a press release 

Smith added that the survey’s results are a “head-scratcher” but said the results could be due to when the survey was taken – in 2018 – when there were just 53 dispensaries operational throughout the state. 

“However, we need to combat the hysteria that legalizing cannabis is going to have a wild and resounding impact on teens in terms of substance use rates and prevalence,” Smith said. “That’s simply not the case.” 

The average age of the students surveyed was 15 years old and the majority of the students in the sample were white (43%) or Latino (26%). Most of those surveyed – 47% – were from suburban Chicago, with 21% from other cities, 18% from rural areas, and 14% from Chicago.  

About 32% of the Chicago youths in the study lived in ZIP codes where medical cannabis dispensaries were operating compared with 3.5% of those living in rural areas. 

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