Uruguay: Youth cannabis use investigated
In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis, establishing a non-commercial regulatory model for production and supply. Enough time to take stock and assess the long-term effects of legalizing cannabis. According to this recent study, there is no evidence of increased cannabis use or perceived risk among adolescents.
A research group has already studied the subject. Their study will be published in its entirety in the June issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy and is pretty good news for proponents of legalization. Study Legalizes Cannabis Legalization Doesn't Affect How Many Young People Smoke.
The researchers collected data from 2014-2018 from surveys in which high school students from Montevideo and central regions of the country confessed to their own cannabis use. They were also asked how they perceive cannabis in public and what is the presence of this substance for them. The method used is synthetic control (MCS): a statistical method to assess the effect of an intervention in comparative case studies and thus estimate the impact of legalization in Uruguay during the previous year or months.
Drug use among adolescents in Uruguay compared to Chile
The research team compared the results of this survey with similar data collected from young people in Chile, where cannabis is still banned. After analyzing the data, the study authors concluded that there is " no proof That Uruguay's decision to legalize the herb has had a negative impact on youth cannabis use. The researchers also found no difference in the perceived risks of cannabis use between Uruguayan and Chilean adolescents.
Although 58% of adolescents in Uruguay report consuming grass for recreational purposes, this figure is only 51% in Chile. However, adolescents in Uruguay are no more likely to be stoned or to consume more than in Chile.
We find no evidence of an impact on cannabis use or of the perceived risk of consumption. We see an increase in students' perception of the availability of cannabis (58% observed versus 51%) after legalization.
Our results support the thesis that the Uruguayan regulatory approach to the supply of cannabis could minimize the impact of legalization on cannabis consumption among adolescents. At the same time, our study period represents a transition phase: access to the pharmacy is by far the most popular means of access and was not available until the summer of 2017. An additional study will be important to assess longer term impacts.
One of the most common concerns voiced by opponents of cannabis reform is the possibility that the legalization of cannabis among adults may lead to more young people starting to smoke weed. The study mentioned here is the one which rejects all these hypotheses. In Denver, for example, cannabis use is legalized for adults. Studies confirm that it did no negative effect on adolescents.