As the legalization of recreational cannabis becomes more widespread, its impact on individuals with substance use disorders must be studied. Amidst an ongoing opioid crisis, Canada’s legalization of recreational cannabis in October 2018 provides an important setting for investigation. We examined changes to cannabis use patterns in patients receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD) following legalization.
This study includes cross-sectional data from 602 participants recruited 6 months pre-legalization and 788 participants recruited 6 months post-legalization, providing information on cannabis use. Regression analysis was used to estimate the association between legalization and cannabis use patterns. We collected longitudinal urine drug screens (UDSs) detecting cannabis-metabolites for 199 participants recruited pre-legalization and followed prospectively post-legalization. Conditional logistic regression was used to assess the association between legalization and UDS results.
Past-month cannabis use was self-reported by 54.8 and 52.3% of participants recruited pre- and post-legalization, respectively. Legalization was not associated with changes in any measured cannabis characteristics: cannabis use (OR 0.91, 95% CI 0.73–1.13), days of use/month (
B-0.42, 95% CI - 2.05-1.21), money spent, or cannabis source. There was no association between legalization and prevalence of cannabis use on UDS (OR 1.67, 95% CI 0.93–2.99) or percentage of cannabis-positive UDSs (OR 1.00, 95% CI 0.99–1.01). Participants overwhelmingly reported that legalization would have no impact on their cannabis use (85.7%). Conclusions
Amongst patients treated for OUD, no significant change in cannabis use was observed following legalization; however, high rates of cannabis use are noted.