Drop seen in Adolescent Treatment Admissions for Cannabis Use Disorder in Colorado and Washington after Legalization

A new research, which was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, revealed that the legalization of recreational cannabis…

A new research, which was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, revealed that the legalization of recreational cannabis in Washington and Colorado State had no association with increased treatment admissions for the drug in adolescents.

Jeremy Mennis, who is the study author and professor of geography and urban studies at Temple University, revealed that:

The growth of marijuana legalization represents a dramatic change in drug policy from previous decades. It’s important to understand the public health implications, particularly for adolescents, for whom frequent marijuana use may be particularly harmful.


These researchers utilized data collected by the U.S Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration between 2008 and 2017. From this data, they discovered that the rate at which people were admitted in the U.S for cannabis treatment had declined over time.

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Asides this, drawing a comparison with other states, the admission rate dropped faster among adolescents based in Washington and Colorado, due to cannabis legalization in these areas. In an interview with PsyPost, Mennis revealed that:

Recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington was not associated with an increase in admissions to treatment for cannabis use disorder among adolescents. This may be because legalization did not increase adolescent marijuana use, or for a number other reasons.

Interestingly, nationally, adolescent treatment admissions for cannabis use disorder have been declining recently, including in Colorado and Washington, even as national marijuana use among adolescents has remained relatively stable.


However, there is a possibility that this drop in treatment admissions reflects changes in treatment seeking behaviors rather than changes in problematic cannabis use. Mennis explained further that:

It may still be too early to see the effects of recreational marijuana legalization on adolescent cannabis use disorder or on treatment admissions. However, national survey data indicates that the perception of marijuana as harmful is declining, and among adults, marijuana use is increasing.

Marijuana legalization can also increase the accessibility and social acceptance of marijuana, so it’s important to continue to monitor cannabis use disorder and treatment admissions to ensure treatment needs are met. We might also extend this research to other age groups, and investigate whether marijuana legalization is associated with changes in use or use disorder for other illicit substances.


Jeremy Mennis and Gerald J. Stahler authored the study “Adolescent treatment admissions for marijuana following recreational legalization in Colorado and Washington.“

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