Marijuana legalization is associated with increased alcohol consumption

These legislative changes are also linked to a reduction in synthetic cannabinoids intoxications.

One of the strongest policy trends, and one that has growing bipartisan support, is the legalization of marijuana. State after state, legalization has been gaining ground for medical and recreational use. According to a recent study, legalization has been accompanied by an increase in cannabis use. This is not surprising. What is new is that legalization is accompanied by another rising consumption: alcohol.

The Hill which has echoed this study summarizes its conclusions with these words:

The study, published in JAMA Health Forum, found that between 2010 and 2019, recreational cannabis laws were linked with a 0.9 percentage point increase in alcohol use among the entire U.S. population. However, the results did not show any associations between legalized cannabis and binge or heavy drinking increases. Throughout the study period, 10 states and Washington, D.C., legalized recreational cannabis for adults.

Legalized in 20 states

In 2012, two states legalized the recreational use of cannabis: Washington and Colorado. Two more followed in 2014: Alaska and Oregon. In 2015 it was the District of Columbia, and the following year four more states - California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts.

Those nine states were joined by Michigan (in 2018) and Illinois in 2019, in the period studied by the article. In the following three years, nine more states joined. In 2020, Montana, Vermont, Arizona, and New Jersey. The following year, New Mexico, Connecticut, New York, and Virginia. And this year Rhode Island, Maryland, and Missouri.

Increase among young people and the first year

In the authors' opinion, analysis of the data revealed that the relationship between legalization and increased alcohol consumption is most pronounced in the first year after the legislative change, but moderates in subsequent years.

On the other hand, this increase is more pronounced in Americans aged 18 to 24 and men. No increase in alcohol consumption is observed after legalization among older adults.

To monitor the effects of legalization, the report has monitored data from four million Americans in 50 states.

Fewer intoxications with synthetic products

This is not the only effect that has resulted from legalization. According to another study published in August of this year by Clinical Toxicology, these changes have contributed to a reduction in intoxications linked to the use of synthetic cannabinoids. As legalization allows the use of natural products, the consumption of synthetic products has been limited. These products are more dangerous, and can even cause death.

The article focuses on the period between 2016 and 2019. During this period, 7,600 people affected by intoxication with synthetic cannabinoids were treated; 65% required medical attention, and 61 people died as a result of consumption. Meanwhile, states with marijuana legalization laws showed 13% fewer exposures to such intoxications.