Study Finds Nearby Marijuana Dispensaries Don’t Impact Teen Weed Use

A recent study shows that neighborhood cannabis dispensaries do not necessarily increase teen weed use.

A California study has determined the presence of nearby medical marijuana dispensaries does not affect the rate of cannabis use by adolescents. Published in the July issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, the research “aimed to examine the availability of medical marijuana dispensaries, price of medical marijuana products, and variety of medical marijuana products in school neighborhoods and their associations with adolescents’ use of marijuana and susceptibility to use marijuana in the future,” according to a report.

Proximity and Price Not a Factor

The study’s authors — Yuyan Shi, Ph.D., Sharon E. Cummins, Ph.D., and Shu-Hong Zhu, Ph.D. of the University of California San Diego Department of Family Medicine and Public Health — concluded that the data does not support claims that the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries and associated factors of product price and variety at the outlets increase teen cannabis use.

“There was no evidence supporting the associations of medical marijuana availability, price, or product variety around school with adolescents’ marijuana use and susceptibility to use,” they wrote.

Neither the number of dispensaries in a neighborhood nor their proximity to schools influenced teen cannabis use, the study found.

“The distance from school to the nearest medical marijuana dispensary (within 0- to 1-mi and 1- to 3-mi bands) was not associated with adolescents’ use of marijuana in the past month or susceptibility to use marijuana in the future, nor was the weighted count of medical marijuana dispensaries within the 3-mi band of school,” the study reads.

The price and variety of products available at cannabis dispensaries were also determined not to increase pot use by young people.

“Neither the product price nor the product variety in the dispensary nearest to school was associated with marijuana use or susceptibility to use,” the report continues. “The results were robust to different specifications of medical marijuana measures.”

Availability Linked to Teen Use of Alcohol and Tobacco

The study’s authors noted that their research was important because the availability of tobacco and alcohol has been cited as a factor in the use of those substances by teens. However, very little similar research into the relationship between cannabis dispensaries and marijuana use by youth has been conducted.

“Despite the strong relationship between retail outlets and alcohol and tobacco use documented by a number of studies, examination of the associations of medical marijuana dispensaries with marijuana use remains limited,” they wrote.

They also noted that two studies that associated the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries with cannabis use by adults defined proximity as being within the same zip code or city. But those areas may have been too broad to obtain accurate data.

“In contrast, the one study on adolescents approximated school point locations with zip code centroids and found that the presence of dispensaries around schools was not associated with past-month use of marijuana among adolescents,” according to the study.

The study reviewed the responses of more than 46,000 eighth, 10th, and 12th graders at 117 randomly selected California schools from the 2015-2016 California Student Tobacco Survey. The researchers then determined the distance from those schools to cannabis dispensaries and the price and availability of products at those dispensaries.