BOZEMAN - The legalization of recreational marijuana raises questions surrounding public health in Montana, a topic that associate professor Mark Anderson has been studying for a decade, and Executive Director at the Alcohol and Drug Services, Robyn Carr, sees on a regular basis.
With a topic as vast as public health, Anderson tackles the relationship marijuana has with alcohol, traffic fatalities, and other facets. His research began as a graduate student, using states that have legalized medical marijuana as subjects.
“The first analysis we ran, we were finding these big decreases in traffic fatalities,” Anderson said, “I thought ‘Wow, that’s kind of surprising,’ so we started digging into this result a bit more and we found that the decrease in traffic fatalities was completely driven by a decrease in alcohol-driven traffic fatalities.”
Anderson describes this relationship as a ‘substitute drug’, simply put: people sometimes move from alcohol to marijuana use when cannabis becomes more available.
“Based on our research in medical marijuana laws…some of the outcomes that we focused on have been public health-related outcomes,” Anderson said.
Using research based on 1990-2013 medical marijuana laws, Anderson projects how recreational marijuana laws will affect public health.
Carr views this subject from a rehabilitation and recovery perspective, noting those experiencing addiction.
“…A pretty large percentage of our clients have cannabis use disorders, not all of them are severe, we do have a wide range of marijuana use…we have more and more people that are heavy users also,” Carr said.