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States with Lax Marijuana Laws Have Higher Usage Rates

Rolling a joint outsideStates with more permissive medical cannabis laws have more adult users of the drug, according to a study published in the journal Addiction. Researchers did not find significant changes in usage rates among children, adolescents, or young adults.

How Marijuana Policy Changes Correlate with Usage Rate Changes

The study used data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health from 2004-2013. Researchers compared state-level usage data over time, then evaluated the data considering each state’s marijuana laws. They also assessed for marijuana dependence or abuse using criteria published in the DSM-IV.

The number of adults older than 25 who used marijuana daily or near daily increased 2.36% per year. Daily or heavy users are at a greater risk of dependency and addiction.

Twenty-eight states plus the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws. Eight states plus the District of Columbia have also legalized or decriminalized the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes.

The study points to regulatory strategies that could reduce problematic use of marijuana in states that allow non-medical use of the drug. Those include the use of state-licensed products and dispensaries, as well as more active oversight by physicians.

Marijuana Use and Addiction: Is There a Policy Connection?

The study’s authors say heavy marijuana use is linked to an increased risk of addiction. As use of marijuana increases in some states, addiction rates might also rise. The study did not find a significant correlation between lax medical marijuana laws and more addiction, and they caution that it can take several years for a user to become addicted to the drug. In some states, regulatory changes are new, so there may not have been sufficient time for greater usage rates to produce higher addiction rates.

A previous study found medical cannabis might help treat addiction and some mental health conditions. Another study found lower rates of prescription drug use in states where medical marijuana is legal.


Rates of marijuana use, heavy use, and cannabis use disorder depend on where you live. (2017, June 15). Retrieved from


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  • Bryant

    June 26th, 2017 at 12:39 PM

    Of course if the laws are lax then there would be greater usage. I would not for sure say that this is a problem though. There are many people who use once or twice when they know they won’t get into trouble for it because they are curious. But this doesn’t mean that they are going to become an addict. They try it a few times for fun and that’s it. I’m just happy that the medical community is seeing just how useful it can be for medicinal purposes and that people who do need it for those reasons don’t have to look as hard for that kind of help.

  • kay

    June 27th, 2017 at 4:54 PM

    I am not sure that I quite understand- this articles feels to me like it is saying two different things- lax laws cause greater usage but then we are not really sure that greater usage automatically leads to addiction? I think that there is so much confusion surrounding this that I am still not sure what I believe on the issue.

  • Bo

    June 28th, 2017 at 9:02 AM

    Have the laws even been in place long enough to make any sort of real determinations?

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