This new study shows that a lot more than just marijuana policy affects substance abuse.
While cannabis legalization has traditionally fallen more on the liberal side of the political spectrum, states with a more conservative history are increasingly taking up the cause as well. While most research on cannabis policy assumes a "one policy, one outcome approach"—that all cannabis legalization policies are essentially the same and therefore yield the same results—that may not be the case. A study from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health shows that a state's wider political standings can greatly effect the outcomes of cannabis legalization.
In particular, the study looked at rates of both cannabis consumption and cannabis use disorder in liberal versus conservative states. The researchers found that young people were more likely to consume cannabis if they lived in a state with a more liberal political structure. Between 2002 and 2011 the rate of cannabis consumption among people aged 18 to 25 rose from 33 to 37 percent while in conservative states it only grew from 25 to 26 percent. These results were witnessed regardless of whether or not the individual states had moved to legalize marijuana in some form.
The fact that the more liberally minded youth were consuming more cannabis is not that surprising. What is surprising however, is that despite lower use rates, conservative states see higher rates of cannabis use disorder (CUD). During the observed period, rates of CUD dropped from 20 to 17 percent in liberal states but only from 22 to 18 in more conservative states.
"Now that this study is out in the world, we hope that policy-makers, researchers, and key stakeholders consider not just the potential impact of a specific policy, but also how that policy might have a differential impact based on the context in which it is being implemented," the study's lead author Dr. Morgan Philbin told Inverse.
The results of this study suggest two things. First, that more people choosing to consume cannabis doesn't lead to more substance abuse issues. And second, that lawmakers need to be thinking about their whole political structure when they're looking to protect their constituents.
h/t The Verge