Recreational Cannabis Legalization Linked to More Alcohol Use, Says Study Co-Authored by Economics Professor Rahi Abouk and Published by Journal of the American Medical Association

Professor Rahi Abouk

In a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Health Forum, William Paterson University economics professor Rahi Abouk and coauthors found the legalization of recreational cannabis in various US states led to an increase in alcohol consumption in those places.

The results, based on the nationally representative data obtained between 2010 and 2019, showed that alcohol use increased by 6 percent for young adults ages 18 to 24 in states that decriminalized recreational cannabis. For the adult population, overall, the increase was lower, at 1.5 percent and was mostly driven by the aforementioned younger demographic. 

Abouk, who also serves as director of William Paterson University’s Cannabis Research Institute, says that policy makers should consider the unintended consequences of cannabis legalization as additional states are considering legalizing recreational cannabis.

“Cannabis legalization may come with a series of direct costs, such as costs due to the treatment of cannabis use disorders, and our study suggests that indirect costs—associated with an increase in alcohol use, for one—should probably be added to this analysis when policy makers decide about cannabis legalization,” Abouk adds. 

Professor Abouk authored the recently published study with Vandana Macha, from the department of economics at the University of Pittsburgh, and Coleman Drake, of the department of health policy and management in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health.