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A Reminder About the Dangers of Self-Reporting (Especially Illegal Behavior) (excerpt)

Well-known alcohol researcher William Kerr and some colleagues from the Alcohol Research Group compared two sets of surveys to determine if and how much cannabis use changed in Washington after legalization of recreational use.  A set of surveys performed in 2014 and 2015 − after the state legalized recreational use – found the “prevalence of use [among those age 18+] was found to have increased by 1.2 percentage points (from 24.3% to 25.6%.)”  What’s more “none of the pre-post legalization differences were found to be statistically significant.”  There were no significant changes in use in the past-year, weekly or more, less than weekly or use with or without alcohol.

Kerr and colleagues compared this finding of an insignificant increase in cannabis use before and after legalization with reports by Washington residents of use in federal government surveys (in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) over the same pre- and post-legalization period.  In the government surveys, use would have been illegal in the early years. The NSDUH surveys suggest “an increase of about 20% in the prevalence of past-year marijuana use across legalization.  Estimates of past-month use for the same period show a similar pattern of change.”  Another much smaller survey also found a significant increase in reported use from pre- to post legalization.

These findings suggest that self-reported behaviors when it comes to drugs, or alcohol, need to be taken with a gram (or more) of salt, especially when that behavior is illegal. Also, “the current results indicate,” the authors wrote, “that the legalization of marijuana in Washington did not result in a substantial increase in prevalence, frequency, or use with alcohol through 2015.” That was still fairly early days of legalized recreational use, they remind, with limited availability. …

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2018
  • Volume: 35
  • Issue #: 7
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