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$5.5 Million Study Will Research Impacts of Marijuana Legalization


Researchers at the University of Minnesota are teaming up with researchers from the University of Colorado. The goal is to use a $5.5 million dollar funded study regarding the impacts of legalization on marijuana use, behavior and mental health. One of the questions the study will answer is: Does legal recreational marijuana lead adults to use it?

Researchers also want to know if marijuana use leads to the use of other substances, according to UC Boulder. The researchers will also look into how legalization impacts mental health, careers and family life. They wonder if some are more vulnerable to negative impacts than others.

So, for this study, researchers will look at 5,000 sets of twins. The study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in a first-of-its-kind study.

John Hewitt, director of the Institute for Behavioral Genetics, said, “Increasing numbers of states are legalizing recreational marijuana, but we know almost nothing about the health and social consequences of this dramatic and rapid shift in public policy. There is a clear need for solid scientific evidence, and the experiment now unfolding in Colorado provides a rare opportunity to accumulate such evidence.”

This study will examine 1,250 sets of twins in Minnesota and 1,250 sets of twins in Colorado. The age range for the Minnesota twins will be from ages 23 to 29. The contrast will be legal marijuana in Colorado to only a limited medical marijuana program in Minnesota. Researchers have already followed twins to collect data regarding marijuana, drug and alcohol use for the last 15 to 20 years. Psychological health and social functioning are also being looked at.

What researchers are looking for is behavioral changes from both before and after legalization in Colorado. Twins from Minnesota will help control some of the factors that influence an outcome regardless of location. The methods of consumption and potency will be factors in this study.

Hewitt said, “There is a big cultural change of how marijuana is being used as a result of legalization. Dabbing is just as legal as smoking your grandmother’s grass but the consequences could be very different.”

Researchers will take these factors into consideration as well:

  • Fulfillment of career goals
  • Family relationships
  • Potential legal challenges
  • Psychological challenges

Twins, identical and fraternal, allow researchers to see how environmental factors play a role in reactions, choices and other factors. The data collected will help determine a better picture of how using marijuana changes due to legalization and what, if any, impact it may have on health over the long run.