New Data Challenges Negative Bias On Cannabis Legislation

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Study finds greater risks of cannabis-related harms in states where cannabis is illicit.

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We evaluated key public health outcomes in populations in states that have varied legalization status, including illicit, medical-only, and adult use. For the first time, we have scientific data that shows cannabis legalization could have a positive impact on public health.

Cannabis Public Policy Consulting (CPPC), the independent leader in advanced data science for cannabis policymaking, has released its Fall 2022 Cannabis Legalization & Public Health Outcomes Report. The report details one of the largest studies to date on cannabis legalization and cannabis use utilizing data from CPPC’s Regulatory Determinants of Cannabis Outcomes Survey (RDCOS). The findings demonstrated that greater risks of cannabis-related harms were associated with states where cannabis is illicit compared to states where cannabis is regulated.

“This is a groundbreaking study in terms of its size and findings,” said Mackenzie Slade, MPH, Director of CPPC. “We evaluated key public health outcomes in populations in states that have varied legalization status, including illicit, medical-only, and adult use. For the first time, we have scientific data that shows cannabis legalization could have a positive impact on public health. As public health professionals, we are very excited to have objective data that can inform policy-making going forward.”

Key findings of the Fall 2022 report:

  • Cannabis legalization may encourage positive cannabis-related outcomes to public health.
  • There were no differences observed between illicit, medical, and adult use states for overall cannabis prevalence, cannabis use disorder (CUD) prevalence, cannabis demand, and overall health status.
  • States with regulated medical or adult use cannabis showed older age at first cannabis use compared to illicit states.
  • States with regulated medical or adult use cannabis showed fewer days of past-month cannabis use among those 16-20 years old compared to illicit states.
  • States with regulated medical or adult use cannabis showed fewer days of driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC) in the past month compared to illicit states.

“While this is not a causal study, we’re able to say with confidence that, because the RDCOS utilizes peer-reviewed research methodology and representative samples of the U.S population, the differences in the findings between states with varying legalization status are statistically significant,” said Dr. Michael Sofis, Director of Research at CPPC.

“CPPC is not an advocacy organization,” Dr. Sofis added. “We are stewards of good data, which the cannabis industry has not had until now. Instead of continuing to make cannabis policy based on best guesses, we can now start developing data-based policies that have the potential to dramatically improve public health outcomes around cannabis use. For the sake of public health, it is time to stop being afraid of legalization.”

The quarterly Regulatory Determinants of Cannabis Outcomes Survey (RDCOS) is the only available tool that integrates population-level cannabis outcomes data with extensive policy data at state and substate levels. Populations of the 25 states surveyed in August 2022 represent over 75% of the U.S. population, and the samples sizes of each state assesses closely correspond with population statistics. The next RDCOS will surveil all 50 states, making it the largest survey of its kind in the U.S.

“Having this data is game-changing for states and for people,” said Slade. “We can’t continue to develop policy based on assumptions about cannabis use. We have the data to start driving positive cannabis impacts on public health, economic and equity outcomes.”

About Cannabis Public Policy Consulting
Cannabis Public Policy Consulting (CPPC) is a team of research and behavioral public policy experts who combine robust survey methodology, policy data collection, and data science with practical cannabis regulatory consulting experience. CPPC bridges the gap between improved public health surveillance and dynamic policy so that cannabis markets can be safe, equitable, and minimize public health risks. Learn more at cannabispolicyconsulting.org.

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