50 years ago, scientists claimed marijuana threatened teens’ mental health

Excerpt from the April 24, 1971 issue of Science News

hands rolling a marijuana joint

Recreational marijuana use remains legally off-limits for people under age 21 because of a variety of health concerns.

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cover of the April 24, 1971 issue

The continuing battle over pot Science News, April 24,1971

The White House Conference on Youth voted to legalize the sale of grass (with restrictions). On the same day, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article condemning the use of marijuana by the young.… The researchers conclude that marijuana smoking is particularly harmful to the adolescent. It adds unnecessary anxieties to the already disturbing problems of physical and psychological maturation.


Fifty years after the recommendation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, at least 15 U.S. states have done so. In that time, a growing body of research has strengthened the link between teen marijuana use and mental health effects, including an increased risk of depression later in life. Such health concerns partly explain why people younger than 21 are prohibited from recreationally using pot. But pot use is prevalent among U.S. middle and high school students: About 25 percent of students in grades 8, 10 and 12 disclosed using the drug in 2020, scientists report.

Mike is the audience engagement editor. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a double major in journalism and psychology. He previously wrote for The Palm Beach Post, covering breaking news.

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