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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Impact of Marijuana Dispensaries on a Population

The state of California is no stranger to marijuana; it was the first state to successfully pass medical marijuana legislation and is expected to pass recreational use legislation next year. With that in mind, there is a lot of research being conducted regarding the impact of the drug on certain populations - research not only valuable to California, but for other states likely to adopt more relaxed laws on marijuana.

In major Californian cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, there was a time when marijuana dispensaries were popping up like weeds. Practically everywhere a person could look an emblematic green cross could be seen. In recent years, concerns of overexposure led municipalities to limit the number of marijuana dispensaries in a given area, making sure to restrict their development in close proximity to schools and neighborhoods.

New research suggests that people who reside in parts of California that have a large number of marijuana dispensaries in a given area, are at a greater risk of marijuana abuse and dependence, ScienceDaily reports. A University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health analysis, funded by the National Institutes of Health, found that people living in areas with increased access to marijuana by way of dispensaries experienced more marijuana related hospitalizations.

"As marijuana is approved for medical or recreational use, we need to carefully consider where we allow dispensaries to be placed," said lead author Christina Mair, Ph.D., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. "Our study indicates that there are real problems associated with a higher density of marijuana dispensaries in neighborhoods. More study and monitoring, coupled with thoughtful legislation and community discussion, will be prudent to ensure that marijuana laws have the fewest negative consequences for vulnerable populations." 

Interestingly, the research showed that marijuana dispensary locations and marijuana associated hospitalizations tended to occur most in impoverished and undereducated areas, according to the article. However, Dr. Mair points out:

"It's unclear if the marijuana dispensaries are simply locating in neighborhoods that tend to be more disadvantaged and already have underlying problems with marijuana abuse, or if the presence of the dispensaries is causing an increase in abuse and hospitalizations. It could be a combination of both factors." 

The research will be published next month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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