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November 13, 2019

Where Is Cannabis Legalization Leading?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia
JAMA Psychiatry. 2020;77(2):119-120. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.3252

In this issue of JAMA Psychiatry, Cerdá and colleagues1 present what is, to our knowledge, the first comprehensive analysis of the association of cannabis legalization across multiple states with cannabis use behaviors and cannabis use disorder (CUD). The analyses use data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2008 through 2016. The NSDUH is arguably the highest-quality survey on drug use that is regularly administered to adolescents and the only survey large enough to assess legalization’s effect on adults. The results will provide fodder for legalization advocates and opponents alike, but taken as a whole, they suggest a more nuanced view. Legalization does not seem to have thus far resulted in large increases in the prevalence of past-year cannabis use among adolescents and young adults. Increases in cannabis use among adults of legal age were observed, but these should not be surprising because at least part of the rationale for creating regulated commercial markets for cannabis is to provide access for adults who choose to use it.

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