February 1, 2023

Study Links Cannabis Legalization to Increased Consumption

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(CNN) — Residents of US states that have legalized recreational cannabis use it 20% more often than those living in states where it is not legal, a study suggests. study published this Thursday in the scientific journal Addiction.

The researchers interviewed 3,421 participants who were sampled by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Antisocial Substance Abuse and the Minneapolis Center for Twins and Families Research about their cannabis use at two different times: before 2014, when it was illegal to sell recreational cannabis, and after 2014, when its sale was legalized in Colorado. Only medical cannabis was legal in Minnesota during the post-2014 portion of the study.

The participants, many of whom were born in Colorado and Minnesota but had since relocated, were surveyed before and after 2014 on how many days they had used cannabis in the past six months, and the scientists initially found that there was a 24% increase in use in states that legalized recreational cannabis compared to those that did not. Based on where respondents lived at the time the surveys were conducted, almost every state was represented, including the city of Washington and Puerto Rico.

The study also included 111 pairs of identical twins, one of whom lived in a state that had legalized recreational cannabis and the other in a state that had not. Among identical twins, the researchers found that use increased by about 20% in states that had legalized recreational cannabis compared to those that had not.

Since identical twins share so many similarities, that percentage is a more accurate estimate of the causal influence of cannabis legalization on their use, said study lead author Stephanie Zellers, now a researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Identical twins share the same genes and often the same upbringing, both of which could influence how often someone uses cannabis, said Zellers, who was a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Minnesota in the time the project was carried out.

“Since that 20% estimate comes from analysis controlling for measured and unmeasured variables,” Zellers said, “it is the most accurate estimate of the causal influence of cannabis legalization on cannabis use.”

cannabis recreational marijuana

Employees help customers purchase recreational marijuana at a Eugene, Oregon, marijuana dispensary in 2015.

Many states that, like Colorado, have legal recreational cannabis also have a large number of dispensaries, making purchases easy, a factor that may have contributed to the higher rate of use, Zellers said.

The absence of legal consequences, such as fines or prison sentences, could also affect the increase in use in states where recreational use of marijuana is allowed, he added.

In addition, the existence of policies [sobre el uso] recreational influences the perception of cannabis use,” Zellers said, “leading to it being seen as safer and less stigmatized.

How legalization affects consumption

As more states legalize the recreational use of cannabis, it’s important to recognize how that legalization affects use, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). in English).

“This knowledge can be used to inform strategies to implement legalization while minimizing potential harms,” ​​said Volkow, who was not involved in the study.

The statistics could also help researchers understand how recreational use affects the rate of cannabis addiction, he said.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 30% of people who use marijuana in this country suffer from cannabis use disorder, the official term for marijuana addiction.

In states where recreational use is legal, ads often label the drug as safe, Volkow said.

More research needs to be done on the safety of cannabis and its impact on the body before jumping to conclusions about its safety, he said.

It’s not black or white

“People often want to say that cannabis is either all good or all bad,” Volkow said. “But in biology, nothing is black and white: there are many shades of gray.”

Frequent or prolonged cannabis use is associated with health problems such as chronic bronchitis and schizophrenia, he said.

However, consumption has also been shown to be effective in treating some pain conditions, such as nausea and vomiting, Volkow said.

According to a study published in June in the journal Annals of Internal Medicinepeople experienced only mild to moderate pain relief from prescription cannabis products and no benefit from over-the-counter medications.

Zellers said he hopes to conduct more research on the effects of increased cannabis use on conditions such as mental health and addiction.



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