The enactment of laws legalizing adult-use marijuana possession and sales is not associated with any increase in the proportion of marijuana-related substance use treatment admissions, according to data published in The American Journal of Addictions.

A pair of researchers affiliated with the University of Connecticut and with the Veterans Administration New England Mental Illness, Research, Education, and Clinical Center assessed marijuana-use related admission trends in legal states and in states where marijuana remained criminalized.

Authors determined, “[O]ur findings failed to find evidence that legalization of commercial marijuana was associated with any significant change in entry into marijuana‐related treatment services or that greater numbers of years of marijuana legalization was associated with increased admissions to treatment.”

They concluded, “It appears that, in the future, the proportion of marijuana‐related treatment service use may remain unchanged even as more states intend to legalize marijuana use fully or partially.”

A separate study published in 2021 reported that the enactment of statewide marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington was not associated with any increase in the number of teens or young adults seeking drug abuse treatment for the use of other controlled substances, including opioids, cocaine, or methamphetamine. Data from 2020 reported that the percentage of teens admitted to substance use treatment facilities for cannabis declined significantly in Colorado and Washington following the adoption of adult-use legalization. 

Other studies have reported a dramatic and consistent decline in the prevalence of so-called cannabis use disorder over the better part of the past two decades. Self-reported use of marijuana by young people has also declined both nationally and in legal marijuana states.

Full text of the study, “Admissions to substance use treatment facilities for cannabis use disorder: Does legalization matter,” appears in The American Journal of Addictions. Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, ‘Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.’


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