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Marijuana Legalization and Youth Access: Separating Fact from Fiction

As Massachusetts contemplates the legalization of recreational marijuana, a wave of resistance led by Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, and various State House leaders has emerged, sparking a heated debate. The proposed Regulation and Taxation of 

Marijuana Act, set for a fall vote, would grant individuals aged 21 and older the right to have in their possession up to 1 ounce of marijuana, securely store up to 10 ounces at home, and cultivate up to 12 plants.

A key argument against legalization revolves around the potential impact on children and youth. Critics argue that legalizing marijuana would inevitably increase underage access to the substance. However, does data substantiate this claim, or is it more fiction than fact? To answer this question, we can turn to the Colorado experience.

Marijuana legalization is still relatively recent in the states where it has been implemented, making comprehensive studies on the subject somewhat limited. One frequently cited study used by opponents of marijuana legalization in Massachusetts pointed to Colorado’s post-legalization status as the number one state in the country for teen marijuana use. According to this study, teen marijuana use in Colorado increased by 12.5 percent after legalization. However, it’s essential to delve deeper into the data.

While the initial statistics may raise concerns, further examination reveals a more nuanced picture. The study clarifies that this change in teen marijuana use was statistically insignificant. To put it in perspective, before legalization, teen marijuana use stood at around 11.2 percent in 2012 and 2013. After legalization, it rose by only about 1.4 percent, indicating a minimal and statistically insignificant increase.

Moreover, it’s crucial to note that Colorado was already among the top states for teen marijuana use before legalization, ranking third. Interestingly, the first and second-ranked states, Rhode Island and Vermont, both experienced decreases in teen marijuana use during the same time frame.

Thus, does the legalization of marijuana authentically simplify the accessibility of the drug for minors? The data from Colorado suggests that while there may be fluctuations in teen marijuana use, these changes are minimal and statistically insignificant. Decision-makers must rely on precise and context-sensitive information when evaluating the potential effects of marijuana legalization on the youth.


In conclusion, the debate surrounding marijuana legalization’s impact on youth access should be informed by factual data and comprehensive analysis. If you or someone you are acquainted with encounters legal challenges related to marijuana or drug-related driving offenses in Colorado, it’s essential to seek expert legal assistance from reputable firms like Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, who specialize in alcohol and drug-related legal matters in the state.

Do you have further questions or concerns? Call us or contact the attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and we will be happy to help.

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