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Study: California Medical Marijuana Programs Attracted Past Users

December 05, 2019

Results of a substance use prevention study in California suggest that medical marijuana programs in that state attracted a substantial number of young people who already were heavy users of the drug.

Published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, the RAND Corporation study analyzed data from 264 individuals who were ages 18 to 20 in the period between 2015 and 2017, during which California had legalized medical marijuana but had not yet approved recreational use of the drug. Among these individuals, all of whom had reported engaging in past-month marijuana use at baseline, the odds of receiving a medical marijuana card a year later increased 7% for each additional day of marijuana use at baseline.

The researchers found that after controlling for confounding variables, physical and mental health problems at baseline were not significant predictors of receiving a medical marijuana card in this group. California law governing medical marijuana has relatively broad standards allowing providers to recommend the drug to individuals with “any other chronic or persistent medical symptom.”

“Making medical marijuana cards easy to obtain for vaguely defined mental or physical health conditions that are not supported by any research evidence has potential for those who use more heavily to claim need for a medical marijuana card solely to have easier access,” said study lead author Eric R. Pedersen, PhD.

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