Medical marijuana ads may be to blame for an increase in teen marijuana use, a study by the nonprofit,global policy think tank RAND Corp. finds. The new research is the first to explore the link between marijuana advertising and adolescent behavior.
Youth who have viewed medical marijuana ads are twice as likely to report using marijuana or to say that they will in the future, according to the researchers, who surveyed more than 8,000 Southern California middle school students regarding their exposure to medical marijuana ads and their experience with the drug.
With Florida’s recent legalization of a low-potency strain of marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web” for treating children with epilepsy and patients with advanced cancer, this latest discovery published in the online journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors is raising questions within the drug policy community and among parents about how to inform young people about marijuana’s risks.
What It Means for Florida’s Youth
If Southern California teens’ marijuana use and its link to medical marijuana advertising are any indication of a national trend, teens here in Broward County, Florida, stand to be affected, too, as an influx of medical marijuana businesses await licensing and the prospect of being able to advertise their products.
Just last year, with a growing push to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, businesses were already flocking to Florida as a new mecca for medical marijuana-related opportunities, including growing, dispensing, lab testing and equipment, delivery services, payment processing and insurance, security and real estate services. In Broward County alone, more than 100 businesses have registered with the words “medical marijuana,” “marijuana,” or “cannabis” in their names. Barring its strict regulation, advertising on billboards, in newspapers and on television and the Web, as well as via storefront signs, will be a natural outgrowth of the “new business boom.”
Teen Marijuana Use Increasing With Legalization Trend
Recreational marijuana use among teens is on the rise, thanks to the drug’s increasing availability for medical use in this country. A recent study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, based on findings from a nationwide survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, finds that the number of youths ages 12 to 17 using marijuana recreationally has increased notably in states where medical marijuana is now legal.
The lead author of the study, criminal justice professor Lisa Stolzenberg, Ph.D., has her explanation for the “strong positive effect” of medical marijuana’s legalization on teens’ willingness to use the drugrecreationally. Marijuana’s medical availability, Stolzenberg concludes, has probably led to less stigmatization of the drug and its potential dangers, with the result that more teens are willing to use marijuana.
Perhaps the same explanation—a reduction in social stigma surrounding marijuana’s dangers—helps account for the latest findings by RAND on the link between medical marijuana advertising and teen marijuana use.
More Teens Using Marijuana Means More Addiction, Health Risks
Marijuana is addictive, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which estimates that one in six people who use marijuana as a teenager will get hooked on the drug. The earlier in life that marijuana use begins, the higher the risk of addiction in adulthood, researchers say.
NIDA and other national drug watchdog groups have documented the health risks of marijuana use. These include:
- A pattern of withdrawal, relapse, cravings and dependency that defines addiction
- An impairment of memory, coordination, cognitive function and judgment when used over time, starting in the teen years
- Lack of appetite/weight loss
Marijuana Addiction Treatment Can Help
Marijuana addiction treatment can help in instances of substance abuse. If your teenager or young adult child is showing any of the above symptoms and has been privy to medical marijuana advertising, he or she may already be abusing marijuana. In the absence of the above symptoms, your child still be at risk of abusing marijuana in the future, depending on his or her level of exposure to medical marijuana advertising.