Associations between cannabis policies and state-level specialty cannabis use disorder treatment in the United States, 2004–2019

Pia M. Mauro, Sarah Gutkind, Melanie S. Askari, Deborah S. Hasin, Hillary Samples, Christine M. Mauro, Erin M. Annunziato, Anne E. Boustead, Silvia S. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Cannabis use disorder (CUD) treatment prevalence decreased in the US between 2002 and 2019, yet structural mechanisms for this decrease are poorly understood. We tested associations between cannabis laws becoming effective and self-reported CUD treatment. Methods: Restricted-use 2004–2019 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health included people ages 12+ classified as needing CUD treatment (i.e., past-year DSM-5-proxy CUD or last/current specialty treatment for cannabis). Time-varying indicators of medical cannabis laws (MCL) with/without cannabis dispensary provisions differentiated state-years before/after laws using effective dates. Multi-level logistic regressions with random state intercepts estimated individual- and state-adjusted CUD treatment odds by MCLs and model-based changes in specialty CUD treatment state-level prevalence. Secondary analyses tested associations between CUD treatment and MCL or recreational cannabis laws (RCL). Results: Using a broad treatment need sample definition in 2004–2014, specialty CUD treatment prevalence decreased by 1.35 (95 % CI = −2.51, −0.18) points after MCL without dispensaries and by 2.15 points (95 % CI = −3.29, −1.00) after MCL with dispensaries provisions became effective, compared to before MCL. Among people with CUD in 2004–2014, specialty treatment decreased only in MCL states with dispensary provisions (aPD = −0.91, 95 % CI = −1.68, −0.13). MCL were not associated with CUD treatment use in 2015–2019. RCL were associated with lower CUD treatment among people classified as needing CUD treatment, but not among people with past-year CUD. Conclusions: Policy-related reductions in specialty CUD treatment were concentrated in states with cannabis dispensary provisions in 2004–2014, but not 2015–2019, and partly driven by reductions among people without past-year CUD. Other mechanisms (e.g., CUD symptom identification, criminal-legal referrals) could contribute to decreasing treatment trends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111113
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024


  • Cannabis
  • Cannabis policy
  • Medical cannabis law
  • Policy
  • Recreational cannabis law
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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