About 21 percent of adults in Massachusetts have used marijuana in the last 30 days, and of those who have consumed the drug, about a third reported having driven under the influence, according to a new Department of Public Health report.
The study found that more than half of adults in Massachusetts perceive marijuana to have slight or no risks, and more than half of marijuana users consume it for non-medical purposes. DPH reported that 26 percent of men and 17 percent of women have used marijuana in the last month, a total of roughly 21 percent of adults in the state.
The study, required by the marijuana law legislators put on the books a year ago, began in early 2017 and found that the rate of marijuana use is greatest among people aged 18 to 25.
“The study establishes a baseline measurement of how marijuana is used and how that affects public health, public safety, and potential revenue in the state before adult-use marijuana becomes widely available,” Dr. Marc Nascarella, the study’s principal investigator, said in a statement. “We were fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an exceptional group of collaborators – from academic researchers and private researchers to state agency experts in this multiyear investigation.”
DPH said baseline data suggest that about 7 percent of all adults drove under the influence of marijuana in the past 30 days and that about 12 percent of all adults rode with a driver who was under the influence of marijuana.
Nearly 35 percent of adults who reported using marijuana in the past 30 days also reported driving under the influence of marijuana, DPH said. There is currently no roadside test, similar to a breathalyzer test for alcohol, for law enforcement to check for marijuana impairment.
Legal non-medical marijuana sales were expected to start July 1 in Massachusetts, but that target will not be met. The Cannabis Control Commission meets Monday and is expected to license the state’s first retail marijuana shop.
“It’s helpful to have a baseline study in place as Massachusetts enters the full legalization era. If the coming experience here reflects that of states that have gone before us, we can anticipate data that puts to rest the reefer-madness fears and hysteria generated by legalization opponents,” former legalization campaign spokesman and industry consultant Jim Borghesani said in an email. “The primary outcomes in those states have been safer choices for consumers, diminution of illicit markets, and significant new revenues and jobs.”
DPH said its study of non-medical marijuana use was a mail and web-based “cross-sectional population-based survey” designed to be representative of the Massachusetts population. About 15,000 respondents were chosen randomly based on address. In total, 3,022 individuals responded to the survey, DPH said.
An online survey of medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts found that the average patient uses marijuana 23.5 days out of 30, and that the average monthly expenditure for marijuana is $246, “with a significantly larger amount spent among respondents under 50 years old and among respondents with an educational attainment less than a Bachelor’s degree.”
About 71 percent of the state’s marijuana users are white, 12 percent are Hispanic, 7 percent are black and 3 percent are Asian, the report found. The report said white non-Hispanic men and people between ages 18 and 20 have the highest prevalence of marijuana use.