The recent legalization of nonmedical/recreational cannabis in various states across the US and other countries has brought up a lot of questions about how this change will affect people's cannabis use behaviors. To better understand this, a group of researchers conducted a study to explore the links between legalization, context-specific likelihood of using cannabis, and cannabis expectancies.
The study surveyed 121 college students who had never used or were abstaining from cannabis in a US state where nonmedical cannabis was still illegal. The researchers found that, overall, 61% of the students reported that they would be more likely to use cannabis if it were legal. This suggests that legalization could potentially lead to an increase in cannabis use among this population.
However, the study also found that the likelihood of using cannabis varied depending on the specific context. Social/sexual facilitation expectancies predicted a higher likelihood of using cannabis after legalization in a social context, while relaxation/tension reduction expectancies predicted a higher likelihood of using in an anxiety relief context. Perceptual/cognitive enhancement expectancies predicted a higher likelihood of using in a pain relief context. Cognitive/behavioral impairment expectancies predicted a lower likelihood of using in social, pain relief, relaxation, and concert contexts, while global negative effects expectancies predicted a lower likelihood of using in relaxation and concert contexts.
These findings have important implications for public health education and clinical prevention initiatives related to the potential increase in cannabis use associated with cannabis policy implementation. College students may benefit from initiatives that address cannabis expectancies and enhance harm reduction skills to help them effectively navigate contexts in which cannabis is available to them.
In conclusion, while the legalization of nonmedical/recreational cannabis may have some potential benefits, such as reducing criminalization and increasing access for those who use cannabis for medical purposes, it is important to consider the potential impact on overall cannabis use behaviors, especially among vulnerable populations like college students. By understanding the links between legalization, cannabis expectancies, and context-specific likelihood of use, we can better prepare and educate individuals to make informed decisions about their cannabis use.