Cannabis Use in United States Has Mirrored Policy Changes

Nadir in use was reported in 1992, with partial recovery through 2008 and substantial increases thereafter
Cannabis Use in United States Has Mirrored Policy Changes
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WEDNESDAY, May 29, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Long-term trends in cannabis use have mirrored policy, with state-level legalization resulting in an increase in use, according to research published online May 22 in Addiction.

Jonathan P. Caulkins, Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College in Pittsburgh, conducted a secondary analysis of U.S. general population survey data for 1,641,041 participants from 1979 to 2022. Caulkins describes rates of cannabis use, as well as trends in days of use reported. Data were contrasted for 1979 (end of relatively liberal policies of 1970s), 1992 (end of 12 years of conservative Reagan-Bush era policies), 2008 (last year before Justice Department signaled explicit federal noninterference with state-level legalizations), and 2022 (most recent data available).

Caulkins found that reported cannabis use decreased to a nadir in 1992, followed by partial recovery through 2008, and considerable increases thereafter, especially for measures of more intensive use. The per capita rate of reporting past-year use increased by 120 percent between 2008 and 2022, and days of use reported per capita increased by 218 percent (from annual equivalent of 2.3 to 8.1 billion days/year). A 15-fold increase in the per capita rate of reporting daily or near daily use was seen from 1992 to 2022. In the 1992 survey, there were 10 times as many daily or near daily alcohol users as cannabis users (8.9 versus 0.9 million), while more daily and near daily users of cannabis than alcohol were seen for the first time in 2022 (17.7 versus 14.7 million).

"Whichever way causal arrows point, cannabis use now appears to be on a fundamentally different scale than it was before legalization," Caulkins said in a statement.

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