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Cannabis Legalization Linked to Decrease in Mental Health Treatment Admissions

INDIANA – According to a study from the O’Neill School of Public Health at Indiana University, states that have legalized cannabis recreationally have seen a decline in mental health treatment admissions in recent years, High Times reports.

The study, published last month in the journal Health Economics, was conducted by Professor Alberto Ortega and utilized data from ten states that had legalized adult-use cannabis.

The results showed that shortly after legalizing cannabis, these states experienced a reduction in the average number of mental health treatment admissions.

“The results indicate that shortly after a state adopts an RML [recreational marijuana laws], they experience a decrease in the average number of mental health treatment admissions,” Ortega wrote. “The findings are driven by white, Black, and Medicaid-funded admissions and are consistent for both male and female admissions. The results are robust to alternative specifications and sensitivity analysis.”

In the initial years after being enacted, recreational cannabis laws resulted in an approximate 37% decline in total mental health treatment admissions, equivalent to 92 fewer admissions per 10,000 individuals in a state, according to Ortega’s estimates.

While the mechanisms leading to this decrease in mental health treatment are difficult to identify due to data limitations, Ortega proposed potential explanations, such as increased cannabis use improving mental health or individuals self-medicating with marijuana after the implementation of recreational cannabis laws.

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