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November 12, 2019
According to Washington Post, a recent study found that alcohol tends to become the substitute for marijuana when individuals hit the legal drinking age of 21. The study which had been published in the Journal of Health Economics found that alcohol consumption among those who are freshly 21 spikes and rates of marijuana use experiences a substantial decrease.
These findings are relevant to the debate in regards to public policy regulating these substances. It is suggested the switch from one substance to another is a means of an economic substitute due to people typically choosing whichever substance is cheapest and most available, and the strict enforcement of marijuana laws would affect alcohol use and vice versa.
Previous studies found dismal evidence in regards to whether alcohol and marijuana act as substitute or complement. The study observed five years worth of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health which directly looked at one’s drinking age as a means to compare use of the two substances between the months before and after individual’s 21st birthday. The data suggested that the probability of one consuming alcohol within the last 30 days increases by 16 percent as individuals hit 21, and marijuana use decreases by 10 percent simultaneously, which suggests that alcohol is actually a substitute.
According to the study, in the event of alcohol being a substitute for marijuana, the incidence is higher among women. In spite of men having higher alcohol and marijuana usage, their frequency of marijuana use decreased 7.5 percent at the legal drinking age whereas women’s marijuana use decreased by 15 percent.
Ben Crost, co-author of the study, and University of Illinois professor, suggests the results of the study implies “there’s a trade-off in what illicit substance policy can be enforced,” according to the Washington Post. Crost also stated if people assume alcohol causes more harm to one’s health then alcohol use should be restricted, and if people believe marijuana is more harmful then alcohol restrictions should be considered for looser restrictions.
Public opinion polls have revealed Americans perceive alcohol to be more dangerous than marijuana, by nearly 5-to-1. Studies have contributed to this theory by showing alcohol poses a bigger threat to both alcohol consumers and the general public. However, it has also been noted that the opinion of alcohol being more dangerous is not universal.