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2023 Study: Public Health Effects of Legal Marijuana

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

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What are the public health effects of cannabis legalization?

Public Health Effects of Legal Marijuana Study

Public Health Effects of Legal Marijuana. A 2023 study entitled "The Public Health Effects of Legalizing Marijuana" that was published in the Journal of Economic Literature explored "the literature on the public health consequences of legalizing marijuana, focusing on studies that have appeared in economics journals as well as leading public policy, public health, and medical journals."


The study declared that 36 U.S. states have embraced legal medical marijuana while 18 have legalized adult-use cannabis (these numbers have expanded to 38 and 20, respectively, since the study was conducted).


Public Health Effects of Legal Marijuana Study Abstract

"Among the outcomes considered are: Youth marijuana use, alcohol consumption, the abuse of prescription opioids, traffic fatalities, and crime."


"For some of these outcomes, there is a near consensus in the literature regarding the effects of medical marijuana laws (MMLs). As an example, leveraging geographic and temporal variation in MMLs, researchers have produced little credible evidence to suggest that legalization promotes marijuana use among teenagers.

A young woman exhales a small cloud of marijuana smoke or vapor.
Cannabis legalization decreases alcohol use among young adults.

"Likewise, there is convincing evidence that young adults consume less alcohol when medical marijuana is legalized. For other public health outcomes such as mortality involving prescription opioids, the effect of legalizing medical marijuana has proven more difficult to gauge and, as a consequence, we are less comfortable drawing firm conclusions.


"Researchers have produced little credible evidence to suggest that legalization promotes marijuana use among teenagers. Young adults consume less alcohol when medical marijuana is legalized."

"Finally, it is not yet clear how legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes will affect these and other important public health outcomes. We will be able to draw stronger conclusions when more posttreatment data are collected in states that have recently legalized recreational marijuana.


View the original study.

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