Increased cannabis use irrespective of legal status in the US

July 21, 2022
Increased cannabis use irrespective of legal status in the US

US states that have legalised recreational cannabis use are seeing an uptick in the current and daily use of the psychoactive stimulant, compared to states where cannabis use remains illegal. The joint study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and The City University of New York (CUNY) also found that rates of cannabis use was even higher among adolescents aged 12-17 who smoked – respondents in this particular study were limited to the year 2017 and resided in states where cannabis use was legally accepted.

According to data from the 2004-2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, cannabis use and daily cannabis use increased in the US, from 2004 to 2017, with little difference owing to the state-level legal status of the drug. States with recreationally legal cannabis use reported higher frequency of use, relative to states with legal medical cannabis and those with no legal cannabis use.

The researchers found Americans who smoked cigarettes were likely to also smoke weed (cannabis): in 2017, one in three (33%) daily cigarette smokers reported cannabis use in the past month and almost one in five (18%) reported daily cannabis use. In contrast, cannabis use and daily cannabis use was markedly lower among non-smokers. These statistics were observed in states that had adopted recreational cannabis laws.

It was additionally reported that, among young Americans between the ages of 12-17 who used cigarettes daily, a majority (73%) had used cannabis in the past month and almost one in three (30%) used cannabis daily. And, among adolescents who did not smoke cigarettes, 5% used cannabis in the past month and one percent used cannabis daily.

“Based upon over a decade of data, cannabis use was markedly more prevalent in states where recreational use is legal for adults, relative to states where it was not in 2017. Yet, the increases in cannabis use during this time period were as fast, or faster, in states where cannabis use is prohibited by law, relative to states that had legalised for recreational use by 2017,” said Renee Goodwin, adjunct associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School and professor of epidemiology at CUNY.

While US states are rapidly passing legislation for cannabis use, it fails to provide the requisite public education on how it can be used safely, Goodwin observed.

“It remains to be seen how increased lawful access and growing use of cannabis among adults in all states – almost regardless of legal status – will impact the adolescent population. Recent trends, however, outline a potential explosion in both of-age and under-age use.”

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