Background: Whether medical or recreational cannabis legalization impacts alcohol or cigarette consumption is a key question as cannabis policy evolves, given the adverse health effects of these substances. Relatively little research has examined this question. The objective of this study was to examine whether medical or recreational cannabis legalization was associated with any change in state-level per capita alcohol or cigarette consumption. Methods: Dependent variables included per capita consumption of alcohol and cigarettes from all 50 U.S. states, estimated from state tax receipts and maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, respectively. Independent variables included indicators for medical and recreational legalization policies. Three different types of indicators were separately used to model medical cannabis policies. Indicators for the primary model were based on the presence of active medical cannabis dispensaries. Secondary models used indicators based on either the presence of a more liberal medical cannabis policy (“non-medicalized”) or the presence of any medical cannabis policy. Difference-in-difference regression models were applied to estimate associations for each type of policy. Results: Primary models found no statistically significant associations between medical or recreational cannabis legalization policies and either alcohol or cigarette sales per capita. In a secondary model, both medical and recreational policies were associated with significantly decreased per capita cigarette sales compared to states with no medical cannabis policy. However, post hoc analyses demonstrated that these reductions were apparent at least two years prior to policy adoption, indicating that they likely result from other time-varying characteristics of legalization states, rather than cannabis policy. Conclusion: We found no evidence of a causal association between medical or recreational cannabis legalization and changes in either alcohol or cigarette sales per capita.
- Medical cannabis