CDC Study: More People Are Smoking Weed, But Not Abusing It

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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Americans are smoking pot more than ever before, but the rates of abuse and dependency are going down.

A new report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, show a decline in abuse and dependency rates, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

“With changes in medical marijuana laws and, in particular, state laws or policies allowing limited access to low percentages of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), persons who use marijuana daily for medical reasons might be using strains that pose lower risk for dependence or abuse,” the CDC report stated, noting the discrepancy in more use, but less abuse.

The report looked at 900,000 responses of people age 12 or older to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is an annual survey of substance abuse, between 2002 and 2014. The survey found an increase in those who have used marijuana in the past month — 6.2 percent in 2002 to 8.4 percent in 2014. The survey also found a slight increase on the number of first time users — 1.5 percent in 2002, and 1.7 percent in 2014.

The CDC said the rates of those who use marijuana either daily or near-daily, deemed “heavy use,” saw a marked increase. From its 2002 level of two percent, it went up 75 percent to 3.5 percent by 2014.

Despite the increase in use, the rate of those who met “diagnostic criteria for marijuana abuse or dependency” declined from 1.8 percent in 2002, to 1.6 percent in 2014, which the CDC said was puzzling.

The report also notes that, with the exception of teenagers — which saw a “non-significant increase in usage” — every age group saw an increase of usage in the past month.

“Although these behavioral changes in the U.S. population are temporally related to the implementation of new state laws and policies, findings cannot be used to infer causality,” the CDC notes in the discussion portion of their findings. “Legalization of recreational marijuana in some states is relatively recent, and continued monitoring of marijuana use and frequency of use among youth is needed because these effects might be delayed.”

This runs counter to a 2015 Columbia University study, which said rates of “marijuana use disorders” actually went up, quite significantly, between 2001 and 2013.

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