New Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Boost Recreational Cannabis Use and Increase Use Disorders as Well

New Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Boost Recreational Cannabis Use and Increase Use Disorders as Well

A new study by Columbia University Medical Center in New York City has found that every state that has legalized medical marijuana is experiencing increases in recreational use and use disorders. At the same time, the study says, states that have not legalized medical marijuana have declining recreational and disorder statistics. The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, pulled data from national surveys of drug use among adults ages 18 and over, conducted at three points:

  • In 1991 and 1992, before any medical marijuana laws were enacted
  • In 2001 and 2002, shortly after medical marijuana laws were enacted in a few states
  • In 2012 and 2013, after roughly 20 states enacted medical marijuana laws.

The study points out that today, more than one-third of the U.S. population lives in states with medical marijuana laws. More than 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in states that now have recreational cannabis laws. Twenty-nine states now have medical marijuana laws:

Arizona, D.C., New Jersey
Alaska, Oregon, Washington
Connecticut, Massachusetts
Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada
Illinois, New Hampshire
Montana, Vermont
Maryland, Minnesota, New York
Rhode Island
New Mexico
Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas
Total: 29 states and D.C.
Eight states have legalized "recreational" cannabis use, three have "decriminalized" it:
Colorado, Washington (recreational)
Illinois (decriminalized)
(decriminalized) Alaska, Oregon (recreational)
California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts (recreational)
Delaware (decriminalized)

CBD Oil and "medical marijuana"

Interestingly, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah all have legalized CBD oil to some extent or other, but have not enacted comprehensive medical marijuana laws. CBD oil is an extract of cannabidiol that is one of at least 113 active "cannabinoids" - the active ingredients found in cannabis. It is not an intoxicant because it's extracted from plant varieties that are high in CBD but very low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) - the psychoactive component of marijuana. However, the strains of marijuana cultivated today as "medical marijuana" are actually high-THC varieties. Although CBD oil and the whole plant are both widely used to treat a variety of conditions, CBD oil is popular especially for children or those who don't want to "get high" because it is not psychoactive. Meanwhile, so-called medical marijuana is highly (no pun intended) popular among those who don't mind getting stoned, who actually enjoy it or who consider the high part of their treatment.

Earlier studies focused on teens

According to study leader Deborah S. Hasin, PhD, of the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, most previous studies examining the impact of medical marijuana laws on recreational use have focused on usage among teens. "The early fear with the passage of these laws was that they would increase use among adolescents, but the studies are quite consistent that this did not happen," she told MedPage Today. "What we showed in this study is that, in contrast to the findings in teens, these laws did appear to influence cannabis use and cannabis use disorders among adults." The Columbia study analyzed data from 118,497 adults responding to the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (1991-1992), the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (2001-2002) or the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III (2012-2013).

The reference for what constitutes "abuse disorders" was the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Study of varying state laws needed

No two state's statutes are the same, and some are significantly unique. This has made it more difficult to pin down why legalizing medical marijuana is leading to increased recreational use, as well as a rise in ER visits and medical problems. "Medical marijuana laws may benefit some with medical problems," the researchers said. "However, changing state laws (medical and recreational) may also have adverse public health consequences." Although the study's statistical findings reveal behavioral trends after medical marijuana laws are enacted, they don't explain what's causing them. An editorial accompanying the study by Wilson M. Compton, MD, at the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA), points out the importance of further study of each state's laws "to determine which components of a policy are associated with positive and negative effects." "While research continues to gather evidence to that end, clinicians are faced with the reality reinforced by the findings from [this study] that cannabis use is increasing among adults living in states that have legalized medical marijuana," Compton said. "In the meantime, it is clear that a robust system of education, prevention, and treatment is needed to minimize the negative consequences that might arise if cannabis use continues to increase."

There is simply no mystery at all

Why are scientists trying to complicate and understand what is an uncomplicated and obvious situation? Anyone wondering why medical marijuana laws are leading to wider recreational use and abuse in each state only has to consider the vast quantities of powerful weed reaching the streets as "medical marijuana." Today, more than ever before, powerful strains of marijuana are finding wider acceptance and distribution in the medical marijuana states because - it's legal. Sort of. It's a foot in the door, so to speak, and it's acceptance as harmless and even helpful is spreading. The more America embraces it, medically or otherwise, the more we see it being used and abused. There is no mystery about this at all. What's needed is that "robust system of education, prevention, and treatment" called for by NIDA. Here at Novus we're behind that kind of approach 110 percent.

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