According to a new study, marijuana legalization leads to more problematic use unfortunately.

The lead researcher, Magdalena Cerdá, says her study isn’t meant to advocate against marijuana legalization, but inform it.

She and her coauthors wrote in JAMA Psychiatry, “Although occasional marijuana use is not associated with substantial problems, long-term, heavy use is linked to psychological and physical health concerns, lower educational attainment, decline in social class, unemployment, and motor vehicle crashes.”

“This study is in no way meant to suggest that legalization shouldn’t take place,” Cerdá said. “It’s a separate issue altogether.”

The study looked at how marijuana legalization changed whether people had used marijuana in the past month, whether they had used it frequently (20 or more days in the previous month), and whether they had met NSDUH’s criteria for cannabis use disorder, which ranges from problematic use to addiction, in the past year.
According to the researchers, marijuana use, frequent use, and cannabis use disorder increased more among older adults in legalization states than in non-legalization states. Among older adults in legalization states, past-month use grew from 5.65 percent to 7.1 percent, past-month frequent use went from 2.13 percent to 2.62 percent, and past-year cannabis use disorder went from 0.9 to 1.23 percent.

The study also found a relative increase in cannabis use disorder among adolescents in legalization states compared to those in non-legalization states.

“For adolescents, I think we need to take the findings with a grain of salt,” Cerdá said. “We need to really track changes among adolescents over a longer period of time and across other states that are legalizing to see if that’s really a robust finding or it’s actually due to some other third factor.”

Cerdá is a drug policy expert at New York University.

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