University of Kent researchers analyzed data from more than 100,000 teenagers in 38 countries, including the U.S., and have found that neither strict nor liberal cannabis policies influence underage cannabis use, The Guardian reports.
The study was conducted in response to a 2015 study in the International Journal of Drug Policy that connected liberal cannabis policies with increased adolescent use. The newest study, however, joins several others since 2015 that show no connection, reversing the narrative established in 2015.
“My new study joins several others which show no evidence of a link between tougher penalties and lower cannabis use. … This is useful information for governments as they consider the best way to deal with cannabis. As it is, the harms and costs of imposing criminal convictions on people who use cannabis do not seem to be justified by an effect in reducing cannabis use.” —Prof. Alex Stevens, study author
Stevens said the findings of the 2015 study were due to incorrect data interpretations. The new study looks at a much wider sample of adolescents and teenagers and controls for differences in use between boys and girls, as well as country of origin.
A mental health and addiction expert from the University of York told the Guardian, “For some of them the fact it is illegal will be part of the appeal, so if a country decides to open up access and allow regulated cannabis this may reduce part of the appeal the drug has.”
There is currently strong momentum to legalize cannabis in the UK, where the study was in part conducted.
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