High school students normally considered “low-risk” for marijuana use are admitting they would likely use marijuana if it were legal. These youth include those who do not already smoke cigarettes, who are affiliated with religious groups, and have friends who disapprove of marijuana use. Researchers from New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) looked at current attitudes associated with marijuana use and intent to use and found that many non-lifetime users do not use primarily due to the fact that it is illegal. The survey discovered that ten percent of non-lifetime users would in fact use marijuana if it were legal. Legalization will make a large number of those not “at risk” increasingly more “at risk”.
Based on data gathered from 6,116 high school seniors who reported not being lifetime users of marijuana and data from 3,829 seniors who reported being lifetime users, researchers looked to see if the use of marijuana and disapproval of friends towards substance use were linked with the following groups:
- Intention of non-lifetime users to use marijuana if made legal
- Intention of lifetime users to use marijuana as often or more often if made legal
It is not surprising to find the latter group would use marijuana as often or more often. “High risk” groups for use would also have increased intentions of use, unless friends disapproved. Yet, it was found that a large number of “low risk” groups (those with friends who disapprove) said they would have intentions to try marijuana if it were made legal.
"This suggests that many people may be solely avoiding use because it is illegal, not because it is "bad" for you, or "wrong" to use” said Dr. Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor at the Department of Population Health, NYU Langone Medical Center.
The results of the study showed there would be a 5.6 percent absolute increase of lifetime users. This would take the trend from the current 45.6 percent of lifetime users in this age group to 51.2 percent. It is becoming increasingly more important to educated youth on the harms of marijuana use, particularly as harm of use does not appear to be a factor for teens intending to use marijuana.