Let’s get something out of the way: No sane proponent of marijuana legalization is arguing that marijuana use is healthy for children. Though there may be some potential benefits for children with epilepsy and other chronic conditions, there are many documented short- and long-term adverse effects of marijuana use in otherwise healthy children. Psychoactive substances are terrible fodder for the adolescent brain.
So it’s very good news that legalizing medical marijuana does not appear to increase teenage use. Two large studies, one from 2013 and the other published earlier this month, both returned similar findings. It’s still too soon to tell if full legalization will increase use among adolescents.
Accidental ingestion of marijuana edibles is another big concern. Kids aren’t likely to light up a joint, but they are considerably more inclined to eat a wayward pot-laced brownie or piece of candy. Recently, a study found that the rate of accidental exposure to marijuana among children younger than six jumped 148% between 2000 and 2013. During that time, nine states legalized medicinal marijuana and two states legalized recreational use. While that relative increase is large and almost certainly linked to legalization, it should be noted that the actual numbers are still small, especially when viewed in context. Just 250 kids were exposed to marijuana in 2013, and all of them recovered. Compare that with other risks around the home.