Legalization always comes with a lot of debate about zoning for dispensaries near schools and other areas likely to have kids. But a new study finds that might not be warranted.
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A new study found that there is no association between the presence of cannabis dispensaries and adolescent cannabis use in legal states. The study, which appeared in the July issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, looked at the increasing commercialization of cannabis under legalization—from more aggressive marketing to the proliferation of dispensaries—and what effect it might be having on adolescent cannabis use.
Studies on adolescent use of alcohol and tobacco have focused on retail access, and this one sought to replicate that work for cannabis. It looked at the density and proximity of cannabis retail establishments in school neighborhoods, the price of products in them, and the variety of those products, cross-referencing them with reported rates of adolescent cannabis use in those areas.
The study acknowledged that other research has found 11-23% of recreational cannabis outlets might sell cannabis to minors. It also says “commercialization may increase the availability of marijuana through diversion, increase exposure to aggressive marketing tactics by the emerging cannabis industry, or increase exposure to others who use or illicitly sell marijuana.” Homegrown cannabis, it added, is a concern.
But despite the myriad of ways cannabis could reach kids, the study concluded that: “Results showed no associations between adolescents’ current use or susceptibility to use marijuana and proximity or density of medical marijuana dispensaries around schools.” Price and product variety also played no role.
The study noted that adolescent cannabis use can occur in areas outside of school zones and that kids move across their communities in an increasingly complex pattern of routes. It called for a study based on “activity spaces,” as opposed to just school zones. It also noted that, despite legalization, a significant black market persists, which is unlike the alcohol or tobacco industries, and could affect rates of adolescent cannabis use.
Still, the study should reassure those who fear that a dispensary opening up down the block might lead their kids astray. And as always, if you’re really concerned, it’s always a good idea to just go ahead and talk to your kids about cannabis.