Marijuana Use Among Young Adults in L.A. to be Studied With Federal Health Grant

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $3.3 million grant to a Pennsylvania university to study the impact of medical marijuana use in Los Angeles on young adults’ physical and psychological health, as well as their other drug use.
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Our marijuana defense lawyers understand the study, “Medical Marijuana, Emerging Adults and Community: Connecting Health ad Policy,” is expected to stretch over the course of five years and will be spear-headed by a medical doctor/associate professor at Drexel University’s School of Public Health. Research began July 1.

The study is noteworthy for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that medical marijuana is tough to objectively study – let alone obtain federal grants to do so – because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That means researchers are often unable to access the drug itself in clinical research without breaking the law.

The New York Times detailed this issue back in 2010, profiling a University of Massachusetts professor who for nine years had been struggling to get permission from authorities to grow a supply of the plant that he could study and subsequently provide to researchers for clinical trials. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has repeatedly turned him down.

Marijuana remains the only major drug for which federal authorities control the only legal supply and for which research supply requires special scientific review by the government. What this means is that the government has the power to shape our understanding and therefore public opinion on this issue. It’s worth noting this strategy may not be working, as the majority of Americans now support the legalization of the drug, at least for medicinal purposes.

Part of the reason the Drexel study may have been approved is that it won’t require any direct supply of the drug to researchers. Instead, the study authors will be focusing on how medical marijuana policies in Los Angeles have affected young adults’ health. A core focus, says the lead researcher, will be on determining the influence and significance of storefront medical marijuana dispensaries on health.

The research team says that medical marijuana dispensaries have not been studied to any great extent, as they are a relatively new and different kind of operation. One of the hypotheses held by researchers is that medical marijuana dispensaries may actually provide a basis for improved physical and psychological outcomes for medical marijuana users, as compared to those who are forced to seek access to the drug on the black market. The latter, of course, is what is increasingly happening as federal officials continue to target dispensaries and strong-arm them into shuttering their doors.

The study concept was reportedly born of preliminary findings by an earlier study, also funded by the NIH, that examined non-medical prescription drug use among high-risk younger adults in two cities, one of them being Los Angeles. Here, researchers found marked differences in the patterns of health and drug use among those who used medical marijuana, versus those who were using the drug without a physician’s recommendation.

The new study aims to specifically accomplish the following:

  • Identify the basis for medical marijuana patient status and determine its impact on the trajectories of psychological and physical health among young adults;
  • Figure out the impact of medical marijuana patient status on a young adult’s drug use, specifically involving the intensity of marijuana use, as well as the abuse of alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drugs;
  • Describe the natural history of marijuana use in Los Angeles among medical and non-medical marijuana users.


The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
First Large Public Health Study of Medical Marijuana Use in Young Adults to Begin with NIH Grant to Drexel. July 11, 2013, Press Release, Drexel University
More Blog Entries:
California Medical Marijuana Ventures Fast Becoming Elite, July 9, 2013, Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Lawyer Blog