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Adolescent Psychiatry


ISSN (Print): 2210-6766
ISSN (Online): 2210-6774

Review Article

Implications of Adult Use Cannabis Legalization for Adolescent Use, Perceptions, Health, and Consequences

Author(s): Mark D. Elliott and Bryon Adinoff*

Volume 11, Issue 2, 2021

Published on: 23 August, 2021

Page: [129 - 146] Pages: 18

DOI: 10.2174/2210676611666210616125845


Background: Adult-use cannabis legalization is being increasingly embraced by various jurisdictions in the United States (US) and internationally. As adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of cannabis, it is essential to ensure that the effects of adult-use legalization are minimized.

Objectives: This review aimed to synthesize the extant literature exploring the impact of adult-use legalization on adolescents and provide recommendations for future action. We focused on the following domains: 1) prevalence of use, 2) highfrequency use, 3) perceived harm, 4) perceived availability, 5) modes of use, 6) potency, 7) mental health and medical outcomes, and 8) legal consequences.

Methods: Narrative review is focused on adult-use legalization in the US.

Results: Adolescent cannabis use prevalence in US legal (as well as illegal) states has remained essentially stable since the advent of adult-use legalization. Criminal penalties for adolescents have not decreased in legal states and maybe increasing; out-of-school suspensions for cannabis use may also be increasing. It is uncertain whether reported decreases in national rates of perceived harm and availability and increases in cannabis frequency and potency of use in adolescents differ between legal and illegal states. The impact of legalization on adolescent health outcomes remains uncertain.

Conclusion: At this early stage of adult-use legalization, we recommend that jurisdictions implement real-time, detailed monitoring to assess adolescent outcomes. In addition, both criminal penalties and out-of-school suspensions for cannabis infractions should be minimized.

Keywords: Cannabis, marijuana, adolescents, legalization, mental health, substance use, social justice.

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