The impact of marijuana policies on youth: clinical, research, and legal update

Pediatrics. 2015 Mar;135(3):e769-85. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-4147. Epub 2015 Jan 26.


This technical report updates the 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics technical report on the legalization of marijuana. Current epidemiology of marijuana use is presented, as are definitions and biology of marijuana compounds, side effects of marijuana use, and effects of use on adolescent brain development. Issues concerning medical marijuana specifically are also addressed. Concerning legalization of marijuana, 4 different approaches in the United States are discussed: legalization of marijuana solely for medical purposes, decriminalization of recreational use of marijuana, legalization of recreational use of marijuana, and criminal prosecution of recreational (and medical) use of marijuana. These approaches are compared, and the latest available data are presented to aid in forming public policy. The effects on youth of criminal penalties for marijuana use and possession are also addressed, as are the effects or potential effects of the other 3 policy approaches on adolescent marijuana use. Recommendations are included in the accompanying policy statement.

Keywords: decriminalization; legalization; marijuana; medical marijuana; social justice; substance abuse.

Publication types

  • Technical Report

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biomedical Research / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cannabis*
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Pediatrics / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Public Policy*
  • United States


  • Cannabinoids