Cannabis Legalization in Washington Has Not Led to Increased Cigarette & Alcohol Use or Abuse of Pain Drugs

According to research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, cannabis legalization in Washington state has not led to increases in the use of alcohol and cigarettes or abuse of pharmaceutical painkillers.

Full story after the jump.

The liberalization of cannabis laws in Washington state has not led to increases in the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and abuse of pharmaceutical pain drugs among adults 18- to 25-years-old, according to research published this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Researchers with the University of Washington looked at trends in alcohol, nicotine, and non-prescribed pain reliever use among more than 12,500 young adults in the state following adult-use cannabis legalization.

“Contrary to concerns about spillover effects, implementation of legalized nonmedical cannabis coincided with decreases in alcohol and cigarette use and pain reliever misuse. The weakening association of cannabis use with the use of other substances among individuals ages 21–25 requires further research but may suggest increased importance of cannabis-specific prevention and treatment efforts.” – “Trends in Alcohol, Cigarette, E-Cigarette, and Nonprescribed Pain Reliever Use Among Young Adults in Washington State After Legalization of Nonmedical Cannabis,” Journal of Adolescent Health, May 9, 2022

The researchers note that the “findings add to evidence that the legalization of non-medical cannabis has not led to dramatic increases in the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and non-prescribed opioids.”

“The findings indicate that the most critical public health concerns surrounding cannabis legalization and the evolution of legalized cannabis markets may be specific to cannabis use and related consequences,” the authors wrote.

In a statement, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said the study “disputes longstanding claims that cannabis is some sort of ‘gateway’ substance.”

“In fact, in many instances, cannabis regulation is associated with the decreased use of other substances,” he said, “including many prescription medications.”

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