A recent study, featured in the JAMA Open Network, has shed light on the impact of marijuana legalization in Canada, specifically concerning its effects on young individuals and potential adverse consequences. The research, conducted in Ontario, focused on a cohort of young adults aged between 19.5 to 23 years, aiming to understand changes in marijuana consumption patterns and related outcomes. Over the span of three years, from February 2017 to February 2020, the researchers conducted surveys every four months, collecting data that encompassed both the pre- and post-legalization periods.
The study involved 619 participants, with an average age of 21 and a standard deviation of 1.2 years. Approximately 56% were female, and 53% held bachelor’s degrees at the latest recorded time point. Notably, before legalization, around 33% reported occasional marijuana use as the norm.
Contrary to concerns about a surge in marijuana use among young people following legalization, the study revealed an overall reduction in marijuana use. This decline in consumption aligns with the existing substance-use patterns within this age group, unaffected by the policy change brought about by legalization.
Interestingly, the most frequent marijuana users before legalization experienced a significant decrease in usage following the legal transition. Consequently, there was a marked decrease in cannabis-related adverse consequences reported among the group. This suggests that the legalization of marijuana may have led to more responsible use among those who were previously heavy users.
On the other hand, individuals who abstained from cannabis use in the period leading up to legalization exhibited a modest but noteworthy increase in consumption over time. Importantly, this increase in use did not result in a corresponding surge in adverse consequences, challenging the notion of increased risks associated with cannabis legalization.
Those who had refrained entirely from using cannabis before legalization experienced no significant increases in negative consequences or usage post-legalization. These observations highlight the complexity of factors influencing marijuana use among young adults and suggest that further research is necessary to fully understand the determinants at play.
This study represents the first longitudinal analysis of the impact of marijuana legalization on young adults in Canada, incorporating multiple time points both before and after legalization.
It is, however, consistent with several U.S. studies that show state marijuana legalization has not significantly changed the consumption habits of adolescents and young people. Over the past 10 years, federal and state data have consistently shown a drop in the overall rate of youth marijuana usage.
This study goes to show that those who regard cannabis companies such as Canopy Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: CGC) (TSX: WEED) as possibly doing harm to youth have no justification for their attitude to marijuana legalization.
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