Researchers at the University of Waterloo examined the potential changes in problematic cannabis use following the 2018 legalization of adult-use cannabis in Canada. They found no association between legal adult-use cannabis and increased problematic use and published the findings in Drug and Alcohol Review.
The study assessed rates of high-risk cannabis use among participants aged 16 to 65 two years before and after legalization. The researchers analyzed repeat cross-sectional data from three waves of the International Cannabis Policy Study web-based survey. The researchers also examined differences in cannabis abuse by sociodemographic and socioeconomic factors and changes over time. One finding showed that the risk for problematic use was higher for lower-income neighborhoods than other socioeconomic communities. In addition, some racial minorities and marginalized groups experienced higher risk. Canadians demonstrated increased cannabis use during the pandemic, yet this study highlights that increased use does not mean increased problematic cannabis use. Overall, cannabis legalization and increased cannabis use do not significantly compromise public safety if effective policies are implemented and followed.
Many studies conducted in Canada and the US have found minimal or no increase in problematic cannabis use following legalization. A 2022 National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA) study found no association between adolescent cannabis use and legislation change.
This study adds to the growing body of scholarship highlighting that cannabis policies can allow regulated access to safe, quality cannabis products for eligible adults and prevent problems such as youth access and cannabis use disorder.
The researchers emphasized the importance of monitoring the prevalence of problematic cannabis use indicators when developing cannabis policy in order to avoid negatively impacting marginalized populations.