Background: There is concern that medical marijuana laws (MMLs) could negatively affect adolescents. To better understand these policies, we assess how adolescent exposure to MMLs is related to educational attainment.
Methods: Data from the 2000 Census and 2001-2014 American Community Surveys were restricted to individuals who were of high school age (14-18) between 1990 and 2012 (n=5,483,715). MML exposure was coded as: (i) a dichotomous "any MML" indicator, and (ii) number of years of high school age exposure. We used logistic regression to model whether MMLs affected: (a) completing high school by age 19; (b) beginning college, irrespective of completion; and (c) obtaining any degree after beginning college. A similar dataset based on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was also constructed for confirmatory analyses assessing marijuana use.
Results: MMLs were associated with a 0.40 percentage point increase in the probability of not earning a high school diploma or GED after completing the 12th grade (from 3.99% to 4.39%). High school MML exposure was also associated with a 1.84 and 0.85 percentage point increase in the probability of college non-enrollment and degree non-completion, respectively (from 31.12% to 32.96% and 45.30% to 46.15%, respectively). Years of MML exposure exhibited a consistent dose response relationship for all outcomes. MMLs were also associated with 0.85 percentage point increase in daily marijuana use among 12th graders (up from 1.26%).
Conclusions: Medical marijuana law exposure between age 14 to 18 likely has a delayed effect on use and education that persists over time.
Keywords: Adolescence; Educational attainment; Medical marijuana laws.
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