Legalizing Medical Marijuana in Kansas

At a Glance:

Location: Kansas

Date: 2015

Vital Condition: Basic Needs for Health and Safety

Determinants of Health: substance use, substance use

Affected Population: Children and Youth

Research Methods: Literature review, Primary research, secondary, GIS mapping

Community Types: urban, suburban

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The Kansas Health Institute conducted an HIA of potential health effects of legalizing medical marijuana in the state. The HIA examined five factors that could affect health: access to and consumption of marijuana, crime, driving under the influence of marijuana and related traffic accidents, and accidental ingestion, with an emphasis on disproportionate effects to vulnerable populations, including at-risk youth.

The HIA found that legalization of medical marijuana could result in increased access for certain groups, such as those with qualifying medical conditions, and could have little to no impact on consumption of marijuana among the general population in the state. However, some increase in consumption might occur for at-risk youth. Overall, changes in consumption would depend on regulatory and enforcement practices. The HIA found that areas located close to medical marijuana dispensaries might experience increases in crime as a result of legalization, but violent and property crime rates in general would probably not be affected. Any increase in crime might be attributable to other factors such as economic conditions. The literature review indicated that accidental exposure to marijuana could increase, especially among children, and that medical marijuana could be sold or given to youth and adults who are not authorized to use it, but the extent may depend on regulatory and enforcement practices.

The HIA made recommendations for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to consider in the following areas: youth prevention, provider accountability, monitoring and surveillance, and regulation. High-priority recommendations, as identified by stakeholders, include discouraging adults from using marijuana in the presence of children because of the influence of role modeling; identifying evidence-based practices, such as the Kansas Tracking and Reporting of Controlled Substances, to keep health care providers accountable; and enacting regulations for childproof packaging to prevent accidental ingestion. 

This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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