Debunking Lies: Legal Adult Cannabis Access Does Not Increase Use by Children

It has long been assumed by lawmakers and law enforcement that if a marijuana dispensary is located near a school that, inevitably, children at said school will begin using marijuana at a higher rate. The argument was never based on science, but only on assumption and conjecture.

Bans on dispensaries near schools is regularly trotted out by prohibitionists, ignorant politicians and cops to prevent the impressionable kids from the evil plant. The argument was successfully used in most legal states to prevent dispensaries from opening near schools. “We must keep the children safe,” they exclaimed, knowing it was a pure appeal to emotion and that there was zero evidence to support this position.

The same broader appeal is made about legalization generally–that legal cannabis would make it appealing to kids and a increase in children using it would surely follow. After all, if it’s legal, why would kids be concerned about the supposed negative affects that the prohibition minded people believe exist? What the prohibitionists didn’t get is that the kids already understand the truth, even if their willfully ignorant parents, and lawmakers, do not.

These unsupported claims are intended to touch on a persons emotions using charged language and worrisome possibilities, rather than a persons sensibility with science and reason. Unfortunately they are quite effective and are used regularly by politicians and verbally deft people.

This type of reasoning is called a red herring fallacy, and more specifically an appeal to emotion. It is designed to distract you from the facts of an argument with a false interference–in this case the assumed risk to children posed by cannabis. It’s a bad way to make your point, though a quite commonly deployed tactic in the cannabis realm.

Luckily, there are researchers that do deal in science and facts and are constantly trying to identify the truth, even though there is a maelstrom of lies and emotional pleas constantly being made by those that do not like weed. Paul Armentano of NORML just reported the results from a study that examined dispensaries, their school proximity and teen use:

“Researchers from UC San Diego examined the association between the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in school neighborhoods and teen use patterns in California. They reported: “The distance from school to the nearest medical marijuana dispensary 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. Neither the product price nor the product variety in the dispensary nearest to school was associated with marijuana use or susceptibility to use. The results were robust to different specifications of medical marijuana measures.

Authors concluded, “We did not find empirical support of the associations of medical marijuana availability, price, and product variety around schools with adolescents’ marijuana use and susceptibility to use … in the future.”

This is not the first study that flies in the face of claims that use by children will increase if cannabis is legal or dispensaries are near schools, as NORML’s points out here. Another study released in July showed that in Colorado teen use did not increase with legalization there. That study reported:

Overall, we did not find a significant change in the prevalence of adolescent marijuana use from shortly before to after the implementation of a recreational marijuana law in Colorado …

We did not find a significant effect associated with the introduction of legal sales of recreational marijuana to adults in Colorado on adolescent (illegal) use …”

So, next time someone uses the appeal to emotion on cannabis legalization and children and make unsubstantiated claims, make sure you correct them and explain that the preponderance of the science shows that is not the case. Let them know they can do a simple google search which will confirm your claim and they can start on the NORML websites Fact Sheets if they want to learn the truth about cannabis and not promote old reefer madness arguments.

Keith Mansur

Keith Mansur is the founder, publisher, and editor of Oregon Cannabis Connection newspaper. The print publication has been serving Oregon since 2010. He has been a Oregon medical marijuana patient, grower, and caregiver since 2006. Find him on Facebook or email him at

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