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Colorado University Leads $5.5 Million Study on Twins That Will Explore Effects of Legal Marijuana

A $5.5 million study funded by the National Drug Institute will look at the health and social consequences of the legalization of marijuana. The study will examine 2,500 sets of 23-29 year-old twins in Colorado and Minnesota over five years. 1,250 sets of twins in the study are from Colorado where cannabis has been legalized. The remaining 1,250 sets of twins are from Minnesota, where recreational weed is still illegal.

5-Year Study Will See How Marijuana Use Affects Psychological Health, Social Functioning, and Consumption Methods

Researchers will analyze how using alcohol, marijuana, and other substances during adolescence and beyond affects their social functioning and psychological health. Colorado University researchers leading the study have already been following the twins taking part in the study for 15-20 years with researchers at the University of Minnesota as part of a number of ongoing studies on twins.

Colorado University reported they have been collecting data of the 2,500 twins’ use of alcohol, marijuana and other substances since adolescence. They have also been keeping track of their psychological health and social functioning.

They will now conduct internet and phone surveys over five years on the Colorado twins to try to determine any changes in behavior prior to and post recreational marijuana legalization.

John Hewitt, director of the Institute of Behavioral Genetics at UC Boulder, is co-principal investigator of the study. He believes that “there is clear need for solid scientific evidence and the experiment now unfolding in Colorado provides a rare opportunity to accumulate such evidence.”

Researchers believe that by including twins from Minnesota they can look at different dynamics that may impact the outcomes, regardless of the legal availability of marijuana. Aside from how frequently marijuana is used, methods of consumption will also be taken into consideration. This includes dabbing, edibles, and smoking. THC levels will also be noted to determine how potent the pot is that is consumed.

Hewitt says, “There is a big cultural change of how marijuana is being used as a result of legalization. Dabbing is just as legal as smoking your grandmother’s grass, but the consequences are different.”

Studying Twins Will Help Determine the Consequences of Legal Marijuana

It’s believed that by studying twins, researchers will be able to look at any environmental or genetic factors that might make a person susceptible to negative impacts of legalization.

“Increasing numbers of states are legalizing recreational marijuana, but we know almost nothing about the health and social consequences of this dramatic and rapid shift in public policy,” says Hewitt.

Through phone and internet surveys, researchers will ask participants a number of different questions. They will inquire about any psychological challenges they’re facing, if they’re realizing career goals, and the nature of their family relationships.

“Some people will be fine,” Hewitt expresses. “And some people may benefit. But for a subset of people, we suspect there will be adverse consequences.”

When putting collected data together, University of Colorado and Minnesota University researchers hope to shed some light on how consumption, psychological impact, and health are changing since marijuana was legalized.

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