Tough cannabis policy has no effect on youth consumption rates: study

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A new study has discovered that tough policies around drug use do not successfully deter youth from using cannabis, and that more liberal policies do not lead to an increase in rates of use.

Researchers at the University of Kent re-analysed information from over 100,000 teens in 38 countries such as Canada, the US, the UK, Russian and France.

“My new study joins several others which show no evidence of a link between tougher penalties and lower cannabis use,” said lead researcher Professor Alex Stevens of the University of Kent’s School for Social policy, Sociology and Social research.

Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, the study challenges a 2015 study from Yuyan Shi et al that suggested a correlation between a liberal approach to cannabis policy and an increased likelihood of teenage consumption of the drug. That study was subsequently invoked to justify attempts to block cannabis legalization around the world.

Stevens claims that the 2015 study was flawed, as it misinterpreted its own numerical results. Stevens’ analysis accounted for the difference between male and female rates of cannabis consumption in various geographical locations and considered a significantly wider range of data. The results demonstrated no association with liberalism and rates of adolescent cannabis use.

Stevens hopes the new information will mitigate some of the damage wrought by overzealous cannabis policy. “This is useful information for governments as they consider the best way to deal with cannabis,” he says. “As it is, the harms and costs of imposing criminal convictions on people who use cannabis do not seem to be justified by an effect in reducing cannabis use.”

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