Report: States that legalized marijuana are seeing a rise in teen mental health disorders



States that have legalized marijuana have seen increasingly strong THC products and a rise in mental health issues among teenagers, a newly released nationwide study reports.

The Drug Free America Foundation authored the study, given first to The Center Square, which reports on “an association between adolescent cannabis use, the use of high potency cannabis products, and increased risk of psychosis.”

The study, also commissioned by the group Johnny’s Ambassadors, said that states that have loosened restrictions on marijuana have seen more use among teens as well as declining mental health.

“A difference-in-means test demonstrates that cannabis use is higher among all age groups in more highly permissive states, with 47 percent more monthly cannabis use among adolescents (ages 12-17) and 81 percent more monthly cannabis use among young adults (ages 18-25) in US states with fully legalized recreational cannabis programs than states where cannabis use has not been legalized,” the report said. “While cannabis use grew, subsequent raises in mean averages for major depressive events, severe mental illnesses, and suicidal thoughts all increased in more highly permissive US states.”

While causation is not necessarily proven by the study, the researchers are calling for a deeper look into this apparently corollary relationship.

“The research results presented in this study demonstrate that for each one percent increase in overall monthly cannabis use, self-reported major depression increased by 0.45 percent for adolescents and 0.21 percent for young adults,” the report said. “For every one percent increase in overall monthly cannabis use by young adults, severe mental illnesses increased by 0.12 percent and suicidal thoughts increased by 0.11 percent. Panel regression models included control variables for gender, marital status, educational attainment, veteran status, unemployment status, race, and ethnicity.”

States have loosened restrictions on cannabis sale and distribution in recent years. Amy Ronshausen, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation, said that as the legal market for cannabis has grown, market competition has driven producers to create increasingly strong products that include more THC.

“If there is a dispensary on every corner, and people are selling these products, you better believe that your dispensary is going to sell the biggest, baddest, most potent marijuana product there is because you want your edge of that market and that is what we see happening,” Ronshausen said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, research has shown a linkage between marijuana use and negative mental health outcomes, but not all studies have not found such a link. 

“Several studies have linked marijuana use to increased risk for psychiatric disorders, including psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, but whether and to what extent it actually causes these conditions is not always easy to determine,” the federal health agency says on its website. “Recent research suggests that smoking high-potency marijuana every day could increase the chances of developing psychosis by nearly five times compared to people who have never used marijuana. The amount of drug used, the age at first use, and genetic vulnerability have all been shown to influence this relationship. The strongest evidence to date concerns links between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders in those with a preexisting genetic or other vulnerability.”

Ronshausen is calling for more research into high potency products.

“Most of the research that we have is on lower potency products, low potency THC, and the research isn’t great when it comes to the harms, it shows that these products are harmful,” she said. “So when these new strands that could be up to 90% THC, we really don’t know what the outcomes are going to be on that, and that’s kind of scary. It’s a new product.”

Researchers say teens are particularly vulnerable to the marketing for these products and the adverse mental health effects because their brains are still developing.

“It also affects brain systems that are still maturing through young adulthood, so regular use by teens may have negative and long-lasting effects on their cognitive development, putting them at a competitive disadvantage and possibly interfering with their well-being in other ways,” Nora D. Volkow, director National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in the agency’s research report on the issue. “Also, contrary to popular belief, marijuana can be addictive, and its use during adolescence may make other forms of problem use or addiction more likely.”


  1. Do we have statistics and regression analysis of teens experiencing sudden cravings for massive amounts of junk food.

  2. Yeah, I’m sure it has nothing to do with the lockdowns or kids not being able to play with their friends at school and such. There have been an increase in overall mental health issues in every state since the so-called pandemic. I’ve been able to access alcohol and/or marijuana since I was 12 years old. So can every kid in America if they really want it. I suppose the anti-marijuana people would rather it be illegal where fentanyl laced marijuana is common among states where marijuana is illegal. At least the marijuana in Alaska today is tested and regulated before it is put out on the market. The anti-marijuana folks act like marijuana is just going to go away if it is illegal or something.

    • I wish I could put a nice spin on this but with legalization, regulation and taxation I suspect there is still an active market for cheaper black-market marijuana. Lots of marijuana is being produced by a lot of people. Although I have no personal experience, I suggest that we likely have more marijuana — a lot more, actually — available to consumers. Over time, more marijuana will result in more marijuana users. If we remain on the current path, we will probably look back in ten years, through a cloud of cannabis smoke, and ask ourselves: “What were we thinking?” Time will tell.

      • Contrary to what prohibitionists are so desperately trying to get the public to believe wholeheartedly and without question, legalizing cannabis IS NOT adding anything new into our society that wasn’t always there and widely available already.

        Therefore cannabis legalization does not lead to some massive influx of new cannabis consumers. The very same people who have been consuming cannabis during it’s prohibition are for the most part the very same ones who will be consuming cannabis when it’s legal.

        The prohibition of cannabis has never prevented cannabis’s widespread availability nor anyone from consuming cannabis that truly desires to do so.

        Cannabis has been ingrained within our society since the days of our founding fathers and part of human culture since biblical times, for thousands of years.

        So, since cannabis has always been with us and humans already have thousands upon thousands of years worth of experience with cannabis, what great calamities and “Doomsday Scenarios” do prohibitionists really think will happen now due to current legalization efforts that have never ever happened before in all human history?

        Fear of Cannabis Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Cannabis Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

        Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of cannabis legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

        The prohibition of cannabis has not decreased the supply nor the demand for cannabis at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

        If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

        Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize cannabis when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

        Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Cannabis Laws.

      • J-Mark, you just might be right too. I do not partake of Marijuana but as a libertarian minded individual I thought that pot and many other substances should be legal for adults. Secondly I hoped that a free and open market place for pot which operated under controls similar to Alcohol would make it more prohibitive for minors to obtain. I was wrong. Add the high potency THC strains and new forms of THC delivery and it’s a perfect storm.
        Europe some 500 years ago witnessed a similar problem when distilled spirts came into being. Eventually society adapted. Will pot follow a similar path? Who knows, but can we at least keep it out of the hands of pre-teens and teenagers?

    • Big difference is the weed you had access to in high school was no where near as potent and strong as this stuff. That and there is an abundance of THC laced products that were not available before. Not an apples to apples comparison.

  3. Well, no surprise there. It would be pretty foolish to think that mind-alterings drugs wouldn’t have permanent negative effects. Those using them, trying to escape God, are only destroying themselves.

    • Oh please, spare the self-righteous condescending “Holier than though” prohibitionist propaganda rhetoric.

      Do you also logically suggest the same things alcohol and actively protect the legality of far more deadly and dangerous alcohol on online public news forums too? Ig no, why not?

      Cannabis consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

      Plain and simple!

      Legalize Nationwide Federally Now!

      What we certainly don’t need are anymore people who feel justified in appointing themselves to be self-deputized morality police.

      We are very capable of choosing for ourselves if we want to consume cannabis, a far less dangerous choice over alcohol, and we definitely don’t need anyone dictating how we should live our own lives.

      We can’t just lock up everyone who does things prohibitionists don’t personally approve of.

      • Alcohol has over a thousand year history in Western Civilization. Loco weed less than a100 years. In the last 50 years of loco weed culture in the US, we have declined big time. All planned and in the cards! IS sloppy/sleepy joe on the loco weed? My lord that man is crazy!

  4. Im highly suspicious of this.

    Kids who wanted weed before legalization were getting it. It was easy to get if you wanted it. It’s still illegal for underage kids to buy it.

    So we’re supposed to believe there has been a sudden influx of parents, older siblings, etc who are supplying kids simply because it’s legal?

    Articles like this are easy to do. If you define the unit of measure, you get the results you want.

    Is it possible? Sure. Is it probable? Likely. But without knowing the methodology the results are suspect.

  5. Great news for Alaska’s mental-health industry!

    Look for truckloads of “teen mental health disorders” grant money on the way to “help” with gender reassignments, abortions, monkey pox, adolescence… who knows what the hell else.

    May we respectfully offer thanks in advance to Alaska’s senior senator for getting this money.

  6. There is a great mental health class that we had to take thru the state of Alaska ~ called Mental Health First Aid. Includes blood born pathogen class and a type of certification. One of the thing s they talk about is how when People take the EDIBLES there are often Schizophrenic Symptoms that may or may NOT go away. they did not specify which type of edibles. not talking about cbd oils.

  7. There actually is a correlation between a liberal/progressive mindset and mental illness.
    Individuals under 21 access black market cannabis, which has been around since cannabis was made illegal 100 years ago. The idea there is a correlation between increased adolescent use and legalization for adults is illogical. The correlation between adolescents who grow up in progressive homes having high rates of mental issues tracks logically, with cannabis use incidental. The scourge of Alaska is alcohol whith devastating results on our youth and families. Adolescents access alcohol at will, and it definitely causes dependency, mental illness and loss of the ability to maintain families, jobs, education and leads to premature death. The Drug Free America Foundation is likely funded by RX corporations who effectively replace healing with patented toxins for profits. The last thing they want are natural plant based healing. The pursuit of RX profits and their medical profession toadies have caused untold damage to physical and mental health to all segments of the population through forced use of toxic jabs, lockdowns, isolation and obedience masks. The odds that the ongoing use of black market cannabis by youth is elevating mental health issues is unlikely.

  8. I value clarity of thought. Kids should be taught to highly value clarity of their thought capacity also. I have read and believe pot that is available today in the states is now very much stronger than pot brought into the country in earlier decades and more quickly creasotes human brain tissues something democrats do not seem to notice.

  9. Statistics 101: Coincidence does not necessarily mean causation. There could be other factors here. What is the political climate of those states that have legalized marijuana? Are there other factors that all these states have in common. Don’t be too quick jumping to conclusions

  10. All the revenue Legalization has brought in does not cover the Administrative costs.
    Remember the property tax relief we got?
    And the schools, doing better than ever?

    It was at least under the table previously.
    Now, my kids see the pot shops….
    Hey Dad, what is that?
    Good grief.

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