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As politicians continue legalizing marijuana across America, it must be studied how will these swift reforms affect the country’s future. A recent study conducted by scientist Magdalena Cerdá, Melanie Wall, and Tianshu Feng, hypothesizes that the legalization of marijuana changes adolescents’ perceived harmfulness of the drug. The study concluded that adolescents’ understood harmfulness varies in states that have legalized it, representing an unclear conclusion. The researchers are experimenting on this subject in response to marijuana’s rapid entry into the United States. This study is relevant in our modern society, especially to adolescents, because as the world changes exponentially from our past, it is vital to carefully choose the steps we take to grow progressively.

The study’s researchers were Magdalena Cerdá, associate Professor and Director of the Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy; Melanie Wall, Psychiatry Professor at the University of Columbia; Tianshu Feng, a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington. Jama Network funded the investigation from 2010 to 2015 in forty-seven states across America. Published by Jama Pediatrics in 2017, this study aims to project a foresight on the role of legalized marijuana. 

The legalization of recreational marijuana raises questions about the mental and physical effects it will have on the youth. Some states that have legalized the drug have experienced a vast increase in adolescent users, raising many concerns for the drug’s projection into the United States. In states such as Washington and Colorado, marijuana has been legal for several years, yet the effect it has played on adolescents has not been studied as thoroughly as it needs to be. The topic is important because if indeed marijuana produces adverse effects on the country’s future, it is crucial to prevent its expansion by examining its beginning stages.

The researchers’ experiment was in response to the fact that marijuana is continuously less disdained in the United States and is studying how this will affect adolescents. They focused heavily on adolescents in pro-marijuana states, Washington and Colorado, three years before and after marijuana was legalized to develop further insight into its impact on the future. They were not responding to a particular study or experiment but instead building on the principle of how recreational marijuana will affect the country. The researchers conducted the study to ultimately measure and better understand the drug’s perceived harmfulness in young lives.

There were several limitations when conducting the experiment noted by the authors in the article. The most significant restriction or flaw that could have led to invalid information is that the study was self-reported, and students could have provided false information considering the majority of states tested had a criminal law against it. While questionnaires were administered carefully, and students had a right to their confidentiality, self-reported studies are likely to contain voluntary response bias. Secondly, the focus group only consisted of adolescents enrolled in school and did not account for students that had dropped school or were not currently in the schooling systems. This served as a limitation because drug use tends to be more prevalent in students not enrolled in school. Lastly, Colorado and Washington were analyzed more than other US states because they served as the more diminutive group for legalized marijuana and its effects on youth.

The study’s findings display that particular states that have legalized the drug have experienced an increase in adolescent users, raising some concerns for the drug’s projection into the United States. However, other states have remained neutral in teenage marijuana users. In the pro-pot states, adolescent marijuana smokers grew from 2.0% to 4.1% when marijuana became legal in Washington, symbolizing a strong correlation between recreational marijuana and youthful users. However, Colorado was the first state to decriminalize marijuana and has not seen an increase in young users. In states such as Washington, more adolescents disregard their prior perceived harmfulness of marijuana because they believe it must be okay to use it if it’s legal. The study also suggests that as more states legalize marijuana, new heath industries must develop to better understand the drug’s effects from its legalization.

This study is interesting to the readership because it highlights potential dilemmas and effects of legalizing marijuana. As marijuana-related discoveries are made, it is essential to understand how these laws will further affect children and future generations. The larger implications derived from the study displays that the correlation between legalized marijuana and use within adolescents still remains unclear. It is evident that legalized marijuana does not lead to a decrease in the perceived harmfulness in teens, but the extent to which adolescent users will change that perception is not entirely explicit from this study. As more states begin legalizing marijuana, further studies must be conducted to better grasp its tie to adolescents. The study could be improved by using inherent weekly drug tests with no penalty if positive. They could have also tested adolescents outside of school and used a larger sample population in other states. There could have been biased, given that some students may not want to reveal their marijuana usage, but in all, the study was conducted thoroughly and accurately.

Marijuana is such a prevalent and debated topic today because of its past reputation of being harmful. The study displays that as it becomes more accessible and conceded throughout the United States. To further the study, researchers could now examine more states since various others have legalized pot. It is also essential to note that as research continues in marijuana’s prevalence in the youth, it is equally significant to acknowledge the health benefits and adverse effects, considering that is why it is becoming legal in the first place.


Cerdá M, Wall M, Feng T. 2017. Association of state recreational marijuana laws with adolescent marijuana use. Jama Pediatr. [accessed 2020 Aug 18] 171:142–149.

Haffizulla, F. 2014. Adverse effects of marijuana use. Films on Demand, Films Media Group [accessed 2020 Aug 31]

McGinty E, Samples H, Bandara S, Saloner B, Bachhuber M, Barry C. 2016. The emergingpublic discourse on state legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the US.Preventive Medicine.[accessed 2020 Aug 18] Volume 90:114-120.   57?via=ihub

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