Cannabis Use

Legalization of Cannabis May Have Caused Decreased Use Among Young Adults

The legalization of nonmedical cannabis use may be associated with the decreased use of alcohol, cigarettes, and nonprescribed pain relievers among young adults, a team of researchers in Washington state found in a recent study.  

To understand how cannabis laws affected the changes in substance use other than cannabis, the researchers assessed a data sample from statewide surveys conducted from 2014 through 2019, totaling 12,694 respondents aged 18 to 25 years.

The researchers found that alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking had decreased, on average, after cannabis legalization. Pain medication misuse also decreased, the authors noted. Cigarette use had decreased, but the researchers saw an increase in the use of e-cigarettes since 2016 (first year assessed).

Results from the study showed that the occasional (1 to 19 days in the prior month) and frequent (20 or more days) use of cannabis and pain reliever misuse, along with frequent cannabis use and heavy episodic drinking, reduced over time among people aged 21 to 25 years.

“The weakening association of cannabis use with the use of other substances among individuals ages 21-25 requires further research but may suggest increased importance of cannabis-specific prevention and treatment efforts,” concluded the authors.


—Jessica Ganga


Fleming CB, Ramirez JJ, Rhew IC, et al. Trends in alcohol, cigarette, e-cigarette, and nonprescribed pain reliever use among young adults in Washington state after legalization of nonmedical cannabis. J Adolesc Health. Published online May 9, 2022. doi.10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.03.006