JOURNAL ARTICLE

Do medical cannabis laws encourage cannabis use?

Dennis M Gorman, J Charles Huber
International Journal on Drug Policy 2007, 18 (3): 160-7
17689362
Medical cannabis is a contentious issue in the United States, with many fearing that introduction of state laws will increase use among the general population. The present study examined whether the introduction of such laws affects the level of cannabis use among arrestees and emergency department patients. Using the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring system, data from adult arrestees for the period 1995-2002 were examined in three cities in California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose), one city in Colorado (Denver), and one city in Oregon (Portland). Data were also analysed for juvenile arrestees in two of the California cities and Portland. Data on emergency department patients from the Drug Abuse Warning Network for the period 1994-2002 were examined in three metropolitan areas in California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco), one in Colorado (Denver), and one in Washington State (Seattle). The analysis followed an interrupted time-series design. No statistically significant pre-law versus post-law differences were found in any of the ADAM or DAWN sites. Thus, consistent with other studies of the liberalization of cannabis laws, medical cannabis laws do not appear to increase use of the drug. One reason for this might be that relatively few individuals are registered medical cannabis patients or caregivers. In addition, use of the drug by those already sick might "de-glamorise" it and thereby do little to encourage use among others.

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