A working paper published Monday (PDF) claims that, despite the insistence of numerous U.S. officials, legalizing medical marijuana had no distinguishable effect on teen drug abuse rates in the surrounding communities.

Drawing upon data from 13 states from 1993 - 2009, professors from Montana State University, the University of Oregon and the University of Colorado Denver found that medical marijuana actually had a negative impact on the consumption of cocaine, the use of which declined 1.9 percent in areas that had legalized medical marijuana. It had no statistically significant impact on teen marijuana use.

Data used in the study was collected from the Center for Disease Control's annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which is often cited by the nation's top law enforcement officials and lawmakers when discussing drug policy. The most recent YRBS found that more U.S. teens are smoking marijuana than cigarettes, attributing public education campaigns and regulatory controls for the reduction in tobacco use.

The study quotes Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who recently claimed that medical marijuana sends the "wrong message" to high school students, potentially influencing their decision to engage in drug abuse. It also cites U.S. Attorney John Walsh, who's taken to crusading against Colorado medical marijuana dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of schools, ostensibly because they drive up youth drug abuse.

"Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the legalization of medical marijuana caused an increase in the use of marijuana and other substances among high school students," the researchers concluded.

The study, currently in draft form, was published Monday by the Bonn, Germany-based Institute for the Study of Labor.

Medical marijuana is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.


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(H/T: Medical Xpress)