According to a study out of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, young people living in liberal states are using marijuana more but are having lower rates of dependency on the drug.

Lead author Morgan Philbin, a social and behavioral scientist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health said to Gizmodo, “[T]hese state-specific cannabis laws exist within a broader policy context and that relationship had yet to be explored (e.g., a medical cannabis law in Hawaii exists within a very different state specific context than, say Arizona).”

She added, “Other work (e.g., on LGBT rights and immigration) demonstrated that the policy climate as a whole can impact individual health outcomes and we wanted to explore if this was also the case for cannabis use.”

Philbin and her team of researchers used data from the State Rank on Policy Liberalism Index, a scale developed by political scientist Virginia Gray. This data was cross-referenced with data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

According to the findings, adults over the age of 26 reported using cannabis in the past year the least, while 18- to 25-year-olds used it the most. People in conservative states consistently reported using cannabis less than those living in liberal states.

“What it does show is that policies that are not directly designed to target a specific outcome, in this case cannabis use, still have an impact,” explained Philbin. “This may occur because the broader policy climate impacts individual health by changing the context in which other policies operate, or perhaps make other—more healthier behaviors—the default.”

“These differing policy contexts may contribute to state-specific differences that need to be taken into consideration when passing cannabis policies in the U.S. (e.g., things like stigma, service availability, care access and cannabis-specific knowledge and attitudes),” Philbin continued. “The same holds for cannabis legalization: policies legalizing cannabis may have different impacts on cannabis use depending on the state in which it is passed, and it is important for policy makers to be aware of, and discuss those factors when considering legalization.”

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