Study finds that European cannabis legalization doesn't increase underage use

Cannabis is the most used illicit substance globally, with roughly 90 million individuals in Europe alone having used the drug once in their lifetime. Recently, scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm conducted a study to determine whether changes in cannabis laws led to an increase in the recreational use of the herb by young adults and adolescents.

They found no evidence to support the claim that the legalization of cannabis causes an increase in the use of cannabis in individuals aged 15 to 34. Critics of cannabis legalization often argue that allowing the legal and free access of the drug will make it more attractive to young adults and teenagers, which they believe will automatically result in increased usage.

The researchers’ objective was to address concerns around social harm that stem from cannabis legalization changes, especially since changes in cannabis legislation in Europe have been initiated in countries such as Czech Republic, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Italy, Malta, Spain, Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Prior studies conducted on the impact of changes in cannabis laws on the prevalence of use have yielded inconclusive results.

The researchers, all from the Department of Global Public Health, conducted an analysis of data collected by the EMCDDA from 11 countries in Europe. The data contained rates of self-reported cannabis use in 15- to 34-year-olds in the period between 1994 and 2017, as well as information on the cannabis policy changes implemented by the countries included in the study. These changes were classified as less lenient or more lenient.

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