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How Has Legalization of Cannabis Affected Usage?

On Dec. 15, 2016, recreational use of cannabis was made legal in Massachusetts. Although no dispensaries in Massachusetts are serving to recreational users yet, medical patients have been able to acquire cannabis in various forms since 2012.

Crushed flower remains the most commonly used form of cannabis. However, other forms such as concentrate are on the rise, along with alternative methods of consumption, such as vaping or consuming edibles. This is mainly due to the fact that cannabis is becoming easier and easier to acquire. According to this survey, vaping and edible usage saw about a 15% increase among youth living in states that had legalized marijuana as opposed to states that had not.

The increase in alternative methods of cannabis consumption has both positive and negative consequences. On one hand, smoking marijuana has harmful effects on your lungs, and often causes permanent damage. Thus, the ability to consume the drug without those same health risks is certainly a positive, especially for medical patients who use it regularly to manage their symptoms. On the other hand, once removed from the dispensary, these other forms of cannabis become very easily accessible to others, particularly minors. While most states have regulations regarding the packaging of their edible products, these “childproof” containers are designed mainly to keep out small children and prevent accidental digestion. They do not take into account actual teenagers who know what they’re doing.

So what do we do? Limiting the density of dispensaries helps keep cannabis out of the hands of minors, but also makes it more difficult for patients to medicate. This same logic applies to home cultivation of plants. It seems that any method designed to increase the drug's accessibility for adults will inadvertently make it easier for minors to access as well.

It’s a difficult situation and each state is on their own to try and figure out a system that works. However, with recreational dispensaries in Massachusetts planning to open in late 2018, easier access to cannabis might just be our future.

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