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Will Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws Increase Teen Marijuana Users?

1314902_medical_doctor.jpgThe recent movement to legalize medical marijuana in Maryland has been gaining steam each year, and the state legislature is slowly moving toward joining 17 other states and Washington D.C. as medical marijuana states. Although there is no medical marijuana bill currently being debated, the Maryland legislature is trending in the medical marijuana direction, as evidenced by recent bills that have modified state marijuana laws. Just last year, the Maryland governor signed off on a law that effectively decriminalizes marijuana use provided that the accused can produce a valid note from a licensed medical doctor that indicates a medical necessity for the drug. In addition, the Maryland legislature passed a law that will lower the maximum penalty for simple possession of marijuana from 1 year in jail to 90 days in jail. On the other hand, medical marijuana is still not legal in Maryland, and regardless of where the state legislature is trending, thousands of Marylanders are still being arrested for possession of the drug each year.

The medical marijuana decriminalization law only comes into play after a defendant has been arrested or ticketed for marijuana possession, because the law only authorizes a judge or prosecuting lawyer to dismiss criminal charges upon production of a valid doctor’s note. In other words, a person with a doctor’s note for medical marijuana use cannot simply show the note to a Maryland police officer and expect to be told to be on their way. Decriminalization of medical marijuana does not mean legalization, but there is no doubt that in the next few years Maryland will take the next step to full medical marijuana legalization. It is simply unrealistic to assume that the state’s justice system will continue to support a policy that requires producing doctor’s notes to judges and prosecuting lawyers. When medical marijuana becomes legal in Maryland, and undoubtedly during legislative debating sessions, a critical question that will be asked is whether medical marijuana legalizations will result in increased numbers of teen drug use.

One of the main arguments against the legalization of medical marijuana in Maryland is that it will directly contribute to a rising number of teenage marijuana users. Proponents of this argument state that legalization will send the message to teens that despite what their parents and teachers may say, marijuana use is not morally wrong and it is not as unhealthy as once thought. Because medical marijuana has been legal in some states since the mid 90’s, there is a large number of data that has been collected over the 20 years of medical marijuana’s history. The data simply does not support the contention that legalization of medical marijuana will contribute to and increased number of teenage drug users.

An ongoing study being conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social research has interviewed nearly 47 thousands high school students in 400 different high schools across the country since legal medical marijuana programs began. The study has yet to find any correlation between an increased number of marijuana use and medical marijuana states. The study has shown that about one in fifteen high school students smoke marijuana daily, and this number is neither higher or lower in states that have legalized medical marijuana. University of Michigan researchers have even found statistically significant data that teenage marijuana use is actually lower in states that have legalized medical marijuana. The data also does not support another anti medical marijuana theory that marijuana serves as a gateway drug to alcohol and cocaine use. The medical marijuana debate will likely continue in Maryland even after the legislature passes a bill for legalization, but according to the data one argument that should not be considered in this debate is whether legalization will cause more teens to use marijuana.

Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland drug lawyer, who specializes in possession of marijuana cases. If you or someone you know has been charged with possession or sale of marijuana or any drug, contact a Maryland marijuana lawyer for a free consultation.

Resources

Medical Marijuana Is Not Causing Increased Teen Drug Use, medicaldaily.com.