Prevention & Education

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High School Seniors Get Medical Marijuana More Often From Drug Dealers Than Dispensaries

Aug 3, 2015


Forbes -    States allowing prescribers to recommend medical marijuana typically require patients to register for a state-authorized medical marijuana identification card before being able to possess the drug for treatment. Many teenage users comply, but there’s still a small percentage of them that go to the black market to get their medication.

Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, a new report revealed that teenagers using cannabis for medical purposes are 10 times more likely to say they’re “hooked” on the drug than youth who obtain marijuana illegally. The study’s authors could not define what the teens meant by hooked because they collected data from the Monitoring the Future study, which is an ongoing study conducted at University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.
Researchers studied the legal or illegal medical marijuana use as it relates to other drug use in a nationally representative sample of 4,394 high school seniors. The study’s authors categorized the students into three types of marijuana users: medical users; those who used another’s medical marijuana; and those who acquired marijuana from nonmedical sources.
The study’s findings also concluded that students who use someone else’s medical marijuana are at higher risk for engaging in risky behavior, including using the drug more frequently to get higher and abusing alcohol and prescription pills.
Lead author Carol J. Boyd, professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, told Forbes in an interview that the bigger story is the diversion of medical marijuana.
“The 17% of our sample that is using medical marijuana — without a card — means that people with medical marijuana are either giving or selling their medical marijuana,” she said.
She added: “If they are selling the medical marijuana without a license, this makes them drug dealers.”
It’s still a federal offense to possess marijuana — even though some states allow it. In Boyd’s opinion, medical marijuana laws are outdated and complicate matters for the general public. For example, even in states with medical marijuana laws, physicians can only recommend (not prescribe) the drug to patients, she noted.
“States have passed medical marijuana laws, but each state differs in the particulars,” Boyd said. “This make it difficult to study the impact of medical marijuana laws and it confused the public. How should we think about medical marijuana and medical marijuana policy when we have so few data.”
When screening adolescents for marijuana use, physicians should also discuss the dangers of the drug with their patients, Boyd said. “In states with medical marijuana laws, physicians should ask their patients if they use medical marijuana (either their own or someone else’s). In general, medical marijuana has a greater concentration of THC (some estimate as high as 25%-33%), in contrast to approximately 13% that is found on the street,” she said.
A little more than 75% of users said they use medical cannabis because other treatments aren’t as effective or cause too many side effects, or both, according to the results of a survey conducted by PatientsLikeMe.
Legalizing medical marijuana doesn’t increase teen usage, a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry unveiled. The study uses more than 24 years of data from more than a million teenagers in 48 states. It found no evidence that legalized medical marijuana led to teenagers using pot more.
“In short, our national and state policies regarding marijuana, and medical marijuana in particular, are confusing and often contradictory; they do not serve our country’s public health needs nor our need to address substance abuse and misuse among our youth.”

“If you choose to consume, please do so responsibly.”

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