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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Texas A&M: Researchers Investigate How Medical Marijuana Laws and Dispensaries Affect Self-reported Health

Over the past two decades, 29 states have enacted laws allowing medical marijuana use. To gain a clearer picture of the effects of dispensaries, Dr. Elena Andreyeva, and Dr. Benjamin Ukert, of the Texas A&M School of Public Health, analyzed data from a nationwide health behaviors survey covering a 20-year period of changing medical marijuana laws (MMLs). Their study, published in the journal Forum for Health Economics & Policy, analyzed the effect of MMLs on self-reported health, separately measured effects for MMLs that provide for dispensaries and those that do not, investigated potential changes to risky behaviors such as smoking and heavy drinking and further broke down the various effects based on characteristics such as race, age and chronic pain status.

They found that MMLs that include legally protected dispensaries are associated with better self-reported health among people from non-white ethnicities, those with only a high school education and chronic pain patients. Self-reported health improvements were much stronger in states with protected dispensaries than those without. They also found that medical marijuana use is associated with reduced alcohol consumption, though dispensaries may be associated with increased heavy drinking. People who report having pain that limits daily activities showed major improvements in self-reported health; however, non-Hispanic whites between the ages of 20 – 54 reported only small changes in self-reported health. This demographic is likely to use prescription opioids, so the smaller effects might be due to medical marijuana not being significantly better at managing chronic pain. Also, medical marijuana may have provided a treatment option for other demographic groups who are less likely to use opioid medications, thus leading to stronger health effects.

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