Illegal Pot Use Is Rising in States That Have Legalized Medical Marijuana

Assembly Bill 7006

Using data from multiple national health surveys, the analysis showed that from 1991-1992 to 2012-2013, illicit cannabis use increased significantly more in states that passed medical marijuana laws (MMLs) than in other states (1.4 percentage point more, SE 0.5, P=0.004), as did cannabis use disorders (0.7 percentage point more, SE 0.3, P=0.03), according to Deborah S. Hasin, PhD, of the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues.

In addition, the percentage of people with "marijuana use disorders" - people who use the drug in unhealthy ways, or abuse it - has also increased at a higher rate in these states, according to the study.

The risks of medical marijuana laws are important to convey, said lead author Deborah Hasin, of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in NY. Marijuana may, for example, help cancer patients with pain and nausea. The study concluded that "the most likely of several possible explanations for higher adolescent marijuana use and lower perceptions of risk in MML (medical marijuana law) states can not be determined".

Cannabis black markets have seen a boom in states with medical marijuana laws, a new study claims.

To investigate, the authors of the new study consulted data from three studies: the 1991-1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey, the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III. 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. 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.

Previous research that focused on adolescents' use of the drug in the wake of medical marijuana laws didn't find an increase in that age group, she said.

In particular, the biannual poll conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed that teen marijuana use fell dramatically in Colorado after the state opened its recreational marijuana market.

The increase in cannabis use disorders could stem from the increasing potency of pot that has occurred under legalization, Hasin said. The 2011 study suggests more research.

A bill is headed to the governor's desk in Colorado that would allow people that suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder to qualify for medicinal marijuana.

Most recent research has concluded that marijuana legalization laws do not prompt an increase in use of the drug by teens. Ohio's law, passed past year, allows people with one of 21 medical conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by a physician.

He says the increase in subsequent years may be from factors other than marijuana legalization laws.

The study notes some limitations. "The impact could be very different in different places due to the implementation of the laws".

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