Saturday, March 7, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by multiple authors appearing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Here is its abstract:
The objective of this study is to assess the changes in rates of juvenile cannabis criminal allegations and racial disparities in Oregon after legalization of cannabis (July 2015) for adults.
This study included all allegations for cannabis-related offenses that occurred from January 2012 to September 2018 in Oregon. Negative binomial regression models were used to examine monthly cannabis allegation rates over time, and tested differences between youth of color and white youth, adjusting for age, gender, and month the allegation occurred. Analysis was conducted in January–March 2019.
Cannabis allegation rates increased 28% among all youth and 32% among cannabis-using youth after legalization. Rates of allegations were highest for American Indian/Alaska Native and black youth. Rates for black youth were double that of whites before legalization, and this disparity decreased after legalization. For American Indian/Alaska Native youth, rates were higher than whites before legalization, and this disparity remained unchanged.
Adult cannabis legalization in Oregon was associated with increased juvenile cannabis allegations; increases are not explained by changes in underage cannabis use. Relative disparities decreased for black youth but remained unchanged for American Indian/Alaska Native youth. Changing regulations following adult cannabis legalization could have unintended negative impacts on youth.
The paper cites to this notable similar work published last year in JAMA Pediatrics titled "Youth and Adult Arrests for Cannabis Possession After Decriminalization and Legalization of Cannabis." That study, looking at arrest data through 2016, found that "arrest rates of youths significantly decreased in states that decriminalized cannabis possession for everyone but did not decrease in states that legalized adult use."
Importantly, these studies are looking at arrest data only to and through a few years after state marijuana reforms. I know Colorado experiences an interesting spike in juvenile marijuana arrests the year right after dispensaries opened, but then there was a notable decline in arrests thereafter. These are important numbers, but I think we really need to keep examining them over a greater time period before reaching any firm conclusions about enforcement patterns.