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Loose regulation of medical marijuana programs associated with higher rates of adult marijuana use but not cannabis use disorder

Williams, Arthur; Santaella Tenorio, Julian; Mauro, Christine Marie; Levin, Frances R.; Martins, Silvia S.

Background and Aims

Most US states have passed medical marijuana laws (MMLs), with great variation in program regulation impacting enrollment rates. We aimed to compare changes in rates of marijuana use, heavy use and cannabis use disorder across age groups while accounting for whether states enacted medicalized (highly regulated) or non-medical mml programs.
Design

Difference-in-differences estimates with time-varying state-level MML coded by program type (medicalized versus non-medical). Multi-level linear regression models adjusted for state-level random effects and covariates as well as historical trends in use.
Setting

Nation-wide cross-sectional survey data from the US National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) restricted use data portal aggregated at the state level.
Participants

Participants comprised 2004–13 NSDUH respondents (n ~ 67 500/year); age groups 12–17, 18–25 and 26+ years. States had implemented eight medicalized and 15 non-medical MML programs.
Measurements

Primary outcome measures included (1) active (past-month) marijuana use; (2) heavy use (> 300 days/year); and (3) cannabis use disorder diagnosis, based on DSM-IV criteria. Covariates included program type, age group and state-level characteristics throughout the study period.
Findings

Adults 26+ years of age living in states with non-medical MML programs increased past-month marijuana use 1.46% (from 4.13 to 6.59%, P = 0.01), skewing towards greater heavy marijuana by 2.36% (from 14.94 to 17.30, P = 0.09) after MMLs were enacted. However, no associated increase in the prevalence of cannabis use disorder was found during the study period. Our findings do not show increases in prevalence of marijuana use among adults in states with medicalized MML programs. Additionally, there were no increases in adolescent or young adult marijuana outcomes following MML passage, irrespective of program type.
Conclusions

Non-medical marijuana laws enacted in US states are associated with increased marijuana use, but only among adults aged 26+ years. Researchers and policymakers should consider program regulation and subgroup characteristics (i.e. demographics) when assessing for population level outcomes. Researchers and policymakers should consider program regulation and subgroup characteristics (i.e. demographics) when assessing for population level outcomes.

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Also Published In

Title
Addiction
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1111/add.13904

More About This Work

Academic Units
Psychiatry
Epidemiology
Biostatistics
Published Here
August 7, 2017
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