Association Between Marijuana Laws and Suicide Among 12- to 25-Year-Olds in the United States From 2000 to 2019

Christopher J. Hammond, J. Madison Hyer, Anne E. Boustead, Mary A. Fristad, Danielle L. Steelesmith, Guy N. Brock, Deborah S. Hasin, Cynthia A. Fontanella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Cannabis use is associated with suicide-related outcomes in both adolescents and adults, and may be increasing amid shifting cannabis policies. However, little is known about the impact of medical marijuana legalization (MML) and recreational marijuana legalization (RML) policies on youth suicide. Using 20 years of national data, we examined associations between MML, RML, and suicide-related mortality among US individuals aged 12 to 25 years, and assessed whether they varied based on age and sex. Method: Suicide deaths (N = 113,512) from the 2000-2019 National Vital Statistics System Multiple Cause of Death files for age groups 12 to 13, 14 to 16, 17 to 19, 20 to 22, and 23 to 25 years were examined in relation to time-varying cannabis law status using a staggered adoption difference-in-difference (DiD) approach with a negative binomial regression to determine associations between MML, RML, and suicide rates, controlling for individual- and state-level covariates and accounting for the varying effective dates of MML and RML by state. Results: The overall unadjusted annual suicide rate was 10.93/100,000, varying from 9.76 (states without marijuana laws (ML)) to 12.78 (MML states) to 16.68 (RML states). In multivariable analysis, both MML (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = 1.10, 95% CI: 1.05-1.15) and RML (IRR = 1.16, 95% CI: 1.06-1.27) were associated with higher suicide rates among female youth compared to those in states without ML. Youth aged 14 to 16 years had higher rates of suicide in states with RML compared to states with MML (IRR = 1.14, 95% CI: 1.00-1.30) and states without ML (IRR = 1.09, 95% CI: 1.00-1.20). Findings were consistent across sensitivity analyses. Conclusion: MML and RML were associated with increased suicide-related mortality in female youth and 14- to- 16-year-old individuals of both sexes. Mechanisms through which cannabis policies are related to increased youth suicide warrant further study and should inform legislative reform.


  • adolescents
  • medical marijuana legislation
  • recreational marijuana legislation
  • sex differences
  • suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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