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Recreational Cannabis Legalization and Proximity to Cannabis Retailers as Risk Factors for Adolescents’ Cannabis Use


Within-person studies are lacking regarding how recreational cannabis legalization (RCL) and the numbers of neighborhood cannabis retailers relate to adolescents’ cannabis use. Study participants were 146 offspring (55% girls; 77% White non-Latinx) of men recruited in childhood from neighborhoods with high delinquency rates. Youth were assessed for past-year cannabis and alcohol use one or more times from ages 13 to 20 years (age M[SD] = 16.4 [2.1] years across 422 observations), while they were living in Oregon or Washington from 2005 to 2019 (where cannabis retail stores opened to adults ages 21 years and older in 2014 and 2015, respectively). We calculated distances between addresses of licensed cannabis retailers and participants’ homes. Multilevel models that accounted for effects of age on cannabis use did not support that the number of retail stores within 2-, 5-, 10-, or 20-mile radii of adolescents’ homes increased likelihood of past-year cannabis use at the within- or between-subjects levels. Likewise, primary models did not support a greater likelihood of cannabis use among youth whose adolescence coincided more fully with the post-RCL period. A secondary model suggested that after adjusting for adolescents’ concurrent alcohol use as a marker of general substance use risk, RCL was associated with cannabis use (between-subjects B [95% CI] = .35 [.05–.66], p = .024). Further research is needed with larger prospective samples, at-risk subgroups, and as cannabis markets mature.

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Fig. 1


  1. We did not separately consider medical dispensaries. Lists included only Oregon licensed medical dispensaries that participated in early retail sales beginning in October 2015. Most converted to become adult-use retail outlets, beginning when such outlets were licensed in 2016. Oregon’s medical and adult-use markets have almost entirely converged: to date, there are only two exclusively medical dispensaries remaining in Oregon. Washington never licensed medical dispensaries; therefore, those were not included in our dataset.

  2. This analysis was requested in review, and was not part of an a priori hypothesis.


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Funding for this work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant number R01 DA015485 awarded to Drs. Deborah Capaldi and David Kerr and NIH grant number 1R01DA039293 awarded to Dr. Julia Dilley. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or NIDA. NIH or NIDA had no further role in study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

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Correspondence to David C. R. Kerr.

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All study procedures were reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board of Oregon Social Learning Center. The study was performed following the ethical principles regarding all research involving humans as subjects as set forth in the Declaration of Helsinki, the Nuremburg Code, and the National Commission for the protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research entitled Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research: The Belmont Report. In addition, the requirements set forth in Title 45, Part 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations were followed.

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Some study findings were presented at the 2021 Society for Prevention Research meeting.

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Kerr, D.C.R., Owen, L.D., Tiberio, S.S. et al. Recreational Cannabis Legalization and Proximity to Cannabis Retailers as Risk Factors for Adolescents’ Cannabis Use. Prev Sci (2022).

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  • Cannabis legalization
  • Cannabis retail
  • Adolescents
  • Longitudinal
  • Alcohol use