Do Medical Marijuana Laws Encourage Adults to Misuse the Drug?

Do Medical Marijuana Laws Encourage Adults to Misuse the Drug?

Illicit pot use increased significantly more in states that passed medical marijuana laws compared to other states, researchers found in comparing three national surveys conducted between 1991 and 2013.

The increase in illicit marijuana use and marijuana use disorders were 1.4 percent and 0.7 percent higher, respectively, in states that had legalized medical marijuana, compared with states that had no MMLs.

Although medical marijuana laws may benefit some people, changes to state laws also may have negative consequences for public health, the researchers, led by Deborah Hasin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University in New York City, wrote in the study.

Additionally, the physician must be available to or offer to provide follow-up care and treatment to the patient to determine the efficacy of the use of medical marijuana as a treatment. In 1991-1992, no Americans lived in states with medical marijuana laws, while in 2012, more than one-third lived in states with medical marijuana laws, and fewer view cannabis use as risky.

That's the basic conclusion of a study published today that has reignited the debate over whether marijuana laws encourage illegal use of cannabis.

They used data from national surveys of drug use among adults (ages ≥18) conducted at three time points: before the enactment of medical marijuana laws (1991-1992); just after the laws were enacted in a few states (2001-2002); and after wide enactment of the laws (2012-2013), when more than one-third of people in the US lived in states with MMLs. The study included 15 states that enacted laws between then and 2012: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, Oregon and Washington.

Legalization of marijuana for medical use and recreational use clearly sends a message to youth that marijuana is not unsafe and increases youth access to marijuana. In the states that never passed medical marijuana laws, the rates of illegal use of the drug rose from 4.5 percent to 6.7 percent - an increase of 2.2 percentage points. Cannabis use disorder increased 1 percentage point.

"Future studies are needed to investigate mechanisms by which increased cannabis use is associated with medical marijuana laws, including increased perceived safety, availability, and generally permissive attitudes", Hasin said.

The increase in cannabis use disorders could stem from the increasing potency of pot that has occurred under legalization, Hasin said.

Colorado is also considering a measure to allow marijuana growers to reclassify recreational pot as medical pot, a gambit to avoid federal seizure of recreational pot plants. With so many states invested in the marijuana industry, it's unclear whether or not these threats will amount to anything but the fact that marijuana is still technically illegal on a federal level, has made lawmakers uneasy about triggering a crackdown. Ohio's law, passed previous year, allows people with one of 21 medical conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by a physician.

He notes that the first time period in the study was 1991 when marijuana use in the United States was at an all-time low.

Dr. Wilson Compton, the deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said the recent research was a "strong design to test the implications" of the new marijuana laws. National Conference of State Legislatures.

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