Impact of State-Level Cannabis Legalization on Poly Use of Alcohol and Cannabis in the United States, 2004-2017
Cannabis policy has shifted toward legalization in many parts of the United States (US). While attention has been focused on whether legalization will lead to changes in cannabis use, it is conceivable that legalization will also affect use of substances that individuals frequently use with cannabis. This study assessed whether cannabis legalization impacted the prevalence of poly use of cannabis and alcohol from 2004 to 2017 and estimated the prevalence of cannabis and alcohol poly use in 2017.
Public and restricted-use data from the US 2004-2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health were analyzed. Data on past-month cannabis and alcohol use were assessed each year. Cannabis legalization was determined by the presence or absence of medical marijuana laws (MML) and recreational marijuana laws (RML) in each state. Difference-in-difference approach was used to estimate the association of MML and RML on cannabis and alcohol use overall and by sociodemographic subgroups (e.g., age, income, education).
Between 2004 and 2017, poly use of cannabis and alcohol increased while alcohol-only use decreased. MML were associated with increases in poly use only among adults over age 50 and among those with higher annual incomes and higher education, while RML were associated with increases in poly use broadly among adults across sociodemographic groups.
Legalization of cannabis was associated with increases in cannabis-alcohol poly use in the US. RML were associated with increases across demographics, while the impact of MML was more limited to certain sociodemographic groups.