AACAP disagrees with marijuana legalization, cites harmful effects on children


The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has released a policy opposing efforts to legalize marijuana.

The AACAP policy statement, released April 15, opposes marijuana legalization while supporting initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of marijuana’s effects on adolescents and improving access to evidence-based treatment, rather than focusing on criminal charges for adolescent users. AACAP also supports the careful monitoring of marijuana-related policy changes on the mental health of children and adolescents.

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The AACAP opposes legalization of marijuana due to the drug’s association with mood disorders and substance abuse.

The policy stresses that significant early use of the drug is associated with increased incidence and worsened psychotic, mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders "across the lifespan." In addition, one in six adolescent marijuana users develops cannabis use disorder, a syndrome involving tolerance, withdrawal, and continued marijuana use despite significant associated impairments.

"Often lost in the discussion on marijuana are the concerning potential implications of policy changes on children and adolescents, who are particularly vulnerable to marijuana’s adverse effects," Dr. Kevin Gray, cochair of AACAP’s Substance Abuse and Addiction Committee, said in a statement. "With this in mind, AACAP felt it was critically important to communicate our organization’s position, given our role as advocates for children and adolescent mental health."

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