Effects of Medical Marijuana Market Growth on Substance Use and Abuse

Medical marijuana markets with loose restrictions increase rates of marijuana use, traffic fatalities, and adverse alcohol outcomes among youth according to new research. Medical marijuana increased rates marijuana use in older adults but outcomes might be better due to alcohol and opioid substitution.

This paper is a dissertation, but exceptionally well-done. I expect that when the separate pieces of it are published in peer-reviewed journals it is certain to make headlines and have a major impact on our understanding of how medical marijuana policies will affect public health. I believe the author, Rosanna Smart, correctly identifies that states differ dramatically in the size and trend in the medical marijuana market over time, and this is likely to impact related outcomes of interest (e.g., adolescent use, alcohol/opioid use, traffic fatalities, etc.). This is what my own research has highlighted.

Here are just some highlights of her findings:

  1. Increased rates of medical marijuana registration are associated with increases in both past-month marijuana use and marijuana initiation for all age groups. Increases are more profound for older adults (i.e., over 25).
  2. Increased rates of medical marijuana registration predicted an increase in total traffic fatalities among drivers 15-20 years old, and there was evidence for increased alcohol-related poisonings among adolescents.
  3. Adults fared better: Increased rates of medical marijuana registrations was linked to lower rates of alcohol-related poisonings, opioid-related poisonings, and alcohol/opioid abuse.

The Kids Aren’t Alright but Older Adults Are Just Fine: Effects of Medical Marijuana Market Growth on Substance Use and Abuse

Rosanna Smart, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – Department of Economics

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