As more states legalize marijuana and more shops begin to sell it, more young adults are using it and developing drug-use disorders, a new study finds.
For the study, researchers looked at young adults in Los Angeles County before and after retail sale of recreational marijuana was legalized in California.
The study linked areas with many marijuana shops, particularly unlicensed retailers, to heavy marijuana use and symptoms of drug use disorder.
“Efforts to regulate unlicensed retailers and reduce the density of marijuana retailers may be important factors to be considered when developing strategies to mitigate potential public health harms from expanded legal access to marijuana,” said lead author an adjunct researcher at RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.
The researchers noted that young adults are at risk for heavy marijuana use, and more than 50% start using by age 21. Heavy use can lead to physical and mental health problems, the study authors said.
The findings are from 2 surveys of nearly 1,100 young adults 21 anni and older in Los Angeles County.
People with a higher number of licensed marijuana outlets within 4 miles of home were more likely to have used marijuana in the past month, the survey revealed.
For each additional licensed marijuana outlet, the odds of past-month use rose 0.7%.
For example, the odds of using marijuana in the past month rose about 10% for someone with 14 licensed outlets within a 4-mile radius, compared to someone with no outlets.
Unlicensed outlets made up 62% of all outlets in the 2nd survey. People in neighborhoods with a greater density of these outlets had an increased likelihood of daily or near‐daily marijuana use, more of the drug consumed, and more symptoms of cannabis use disorder.
“Unlicensed retailers are illegal and do not abide by licensing requirements that prohibit the sale of products from unlicensed producers or limiting the amount of marijuana that can be purchased by an adult each day,” according to the RAND news release.
“Adults who use marijuana more frequently may be drawn to purchasing from unlicensed shops because of discounted prices and lack of regulation on purchase quantities,” the statement said.
The findings were published online in the American Journal on Addictions.
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