New research shows that the likelihood of a patient visiting an ER and getting a cannabis use disorder diagnosis is 50% lower in legal cannabis states in comparison to prohibitionist states. The research examined data obtained from emergency departments for the period between 2017–2020. Researchers focused on the states of Oregon and Colorado, which have legalized marijuana, and Rhode Island and Maryland, which still prohibit the use of marijuana.
Specifically, the researchers assessed “treat & release” visiting rates, in which patients received cannabis-use disorder diagnoses that indicated problematic use of the substance. In total, the researchers had to analyze more than 17 million ER visits, which they did using a multivariate logistic regression model.
The researchers revealed that they naturally expected to find higher cannabis-use disorder rates in states that have legalized the drug given that previous studies had found that ending prohibition was linked to slight increases in cannabis use by adults. However, they were surprised when the data indicated that recreational marijuana states had lower odds of cannabis-use disorder in comparison to states where the drug remained illegal.
In their report, the researchers stated that their findings could inform actions of policymakers and recommended that additional studies and analysis of the cannabis use disorder-legalization interrelationship be done in emergency departments, among other healthcare settings. They added that previous studies regarding post-legalization ER visits and hospitalizations had primarily centered on the youth, which meant even slight changes could look more noticeable due to the comparatively low prevalence of marijuana use within said population.
They also noted that in legal states, providers were more tolerant of marijuana use and less likely to recognize problematic behavior associated with cannabis-use disorder, which reduced the chances of proper diagnosis and documentation of cannabis-use disorder in medical records. This, the researchers assume, could account for lower prevalence of the disorder in emergency departments in legal states.
In their report, the researchers also cited separate findings which determined that decreasing admissions for cannabis-use disorder following legalization may have reduced stigma while also increasing the societal acceptability of marijuana use.
The authors published their findings in the “Preventative Medicine Reports” journal.
In other news, findings from a study published by the American Medical Association show that the use of marijuana among the youth has actually been decreasing as more states scrap prohibition laws in favor of regulated recreational sales for eligible individuals. A separate study by NIDA also determined that state-level marijuana legalization was not linked to an increase in use among the youth.
All this scientific data goes to dispel some of the claims made by opponents of cannabis legalization that creating a regulated market in which companies such as Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) (TSX: CRON) are allowed to operate will result in a spike in cannabis use by the youth.
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