The researchers did not find significant differences between alcohol and marijuana use with regard to general lifetime use and trouble with police. However, not surprisingly, compared to alcohol, frequent marijuana users (i.e., used >40 times) were 23 times more likely to report getting into trouble with the police.
"As a controlled substance, mere possession of marijuana may increase the risk of significant legal consequences compared to an age-restricted legal substance such as alcohol, so this was not unexpected," said Dr. Palamar. "Smoking marijuana also tends to leave a strong odor, which can easily draw attention to authorities. However, we found no racial differences with regard to getting in trouble with police because of marijuana use. Results might have been different if we focused on older individuals or only those who reside in big cities."
The researchers stress that marijuana and alcohol are associated with unique adverse outcomes in teens. Outcomes differ by sex and race/ethnicity, and perception or experience of adverse outcomes may also be related to legal status and associated stigma. Public health interventions may be more effective by focusing on prevention and harm reduction strategies for these drug-specific outcomes.
"We hope that the findings of this study will contribute to the ongoing debate on marijuana policy and its perceived harm when compared to alcohol," concluded Dr. Palamar.
|Contact: Christopher James|
New York University