Effect of Marijuana Legalization on Addiction Rates in California

Learn more about the connection between marijuana legalization and addiction rates in California.

In recent years, marijuana regulations have evolved substantially across the United States, with California often leading this trend. The passing of Proposition 64 in 2016 marked an important turning point in the history of California by legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Debates about the effect of marijuana legalization on addiction rates, particularly concerning public health, have changed along with the drug’s legal status. We Level Up CA hopes to provide enough information to show evidence-based strategies for substance use disorder prevention, intervention, and support by examining the relationship between marijuana legalization and addiction.

A common question: Is marijuana legal in California? The answer is yes. Adults older than 21 can use marijuana recreationally, and the state even allows the production, sale, and possession of the drug in small quantities.

Marijuana legalization and addiction in California

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana thanks to Proposition 215, commonly known as the Compassionate Use Act. This was a turning point in the state’s legalization of marijuana. Under this program, people with certain illnesses could obtain cannabis on a doctor’s prescription for medical use. In the years that followed, a network of pharmacies expanded throughout the state, providing medical marijuana to patients seeking treatment for a variety of conditions.

However, Proposition 64, which was passed in 2016, marked the last step toward fully legalizing marijuana in California. Marijuana usage for recreational purposes is now permitted for adults 21 years of age and older, thanks to this ballot vote. In addition, it allowed the production, sale, and possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. With this important development, California continued to be at the forefront of the movement to legalize marijuana.

hands holding marijuana representing marijuana legalization and addiction rates in California
Debates about the connection between marijuana legalization and addiction rates in California, particularly concerning public health, have changed along with the drug’s legal status.

Legalization of marijuana and addiction implications

The shift from medical marijuana to recreational use in California has had a significant impact on society, changing everything from the healthcare system to law enforcement procedures. Although the decision has made cannabis more widely available for both medical and recreational uses, it has additionally raised worries about possible abuse and addiction. This shows that the connection between marijuana legalization and addiction can be strong.

People dealing with drug use disorders might find it hard to understand how the laws around marijuana are changing. Also, the fact that a mind-altering substance is now available legally may hinder their recovery. In any case, this can make it tough to know where to turn for help. It’s really important to find the right support, whether that means getting drug detox in California or finding a rehab center nearby. The state has seen a lot of issues come up because of marijuana’s changing legal status. It shows why it’s so important to have good options for treatment. For anyone looking for help with detox, WeLevelUp California offers support and reliable detox programs.

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There have been discussions and research on the legalization of marijuana and addiction rates in general, especially in California. Advocates of legalization believe that these regulations can improve access to treatment and minimize the negative effects of the black market, while others worry that addiction rates may rise as a result. The available information and research provide contradictory results.

Statistics charts representing marijuana legalization and addiction in California
Statistics show that there is a link between marijuana legalization and addiction in California

The legalization of marijuana does not appear to have significantly increased the risk of addiction, according to some research, with studies showing steady or even declining patterns in cannabis use disorder after legalization. Nevertheless, additional research pointed to a possible increase in cannabis-related hospital admissions following legalization. It has later been proven that increased accessibility to marijuana due to legalization may have implications for addiction and substance use disorders (SUDs). And there lies the tricky link between marijuana legalization and addiction.

Legalization of marijuana and addiction statistics in California

Among California youth aged 12–17, the prevalence of past-month marijuana use remained relatively stable between 2002–2005 and 2014–2017, with an annual average of 7.5%. This aligns with regional and national averages. However, approximately 5.2% of California’s youth of this age tried marijuana for the first time between 2013 and 2017.

For young adults aged 18–25, there was a noticeable increase in past-year marijuana use between 2002–2005 and 2014–2017. The annual average was 34.7% during the latter period, which surpassed both regional and national averages. Additionally, the prevalence of past-year marijuana use disorder in this demographic remained stable over the years, with 5.8% experiencing such disorders during 2014–2017.

Looking at the broader population aged 12 or older, the prevalence of past-year marijuana use increased significantly from 2002–2005 to 2014–2017. It reached an annual average of 16.4%, higher than both regional and national averages. Similarly, the prevalence of past-year marijuana use disorder remained steady over the years, with 2.0% experiencing such disorders during 2014–2017.

However, alongside the rise in marijuana use, California has witnessed a concerning trend in emergency department visits and admissions related to marijuana use. There was an 89% increase from 2016 to 2019. Moreover, the state saw a significant rise in cannabidiol-related exposure calls and emergency department visits for primary marijuana use. This indicates growing health concerns.

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While California’s cannabis market initially experienced remarkable growth, particularly in 2020, post-pandemic sales began to decline in late 2021. Despite this decline, year-over-year sales in November 2023 show only an 8% decrease from the same period in 2022, suggesting a potential stabilization in the market.

There is no doubt that the legalization of marijuana has affected how the general public views its usage. Critics express concerns about normalization leading to greater availability and subsequent misuse, particularly among vulnerable populations. People’s perceptions of marijuana have gradually changed as a result of rising legalization attempts; many now consider it to be safer than other drugs.

A small jar of marijuana next to some notebooks
The connection between marijuana legalization and addiction is seen in the increased accessibility of marijuana, which may have implications for addiction and substance use disorders (SUDs)

This change in perspective might have an impact on people’s motivation to seek treatment for cannabis-related issues, which might cause a delay in intervention. As a result, it is crucial to ensure that treatment options are readily available and tailored to the various needs of those who suffer from marijuana addiction. Nowadays, you can simply go online, type “rehab near me,” and get the help you need.

Marijuana legalization and addiction treatment

Marijuana legalization and addiction have a complicated and multidimensional relationship. A range of factors influence both an individual’s vulnerability and society in general. Drug addiction continues to be a major public health issue that needs immediate attention and assistance.

Fortunately, those suffering from substance use disorders (SUDs) have a wide range of options for treatment at their disposal, including:

  1. Inpatient rehabilitation programs
  2. Outpatient programs

Inpatient treatment for marijuana abuse

If you have fallen victim to marijuana legalization and addiction, you may benefit from residential addiction treatment. Inpatient treatment for marijuana abuse involves a structured and intensive approach to helping you or your loved one overcome dependence on marijuana.

During inpatient treatment, you reside at a specialized facility for a designated period of time. The duration typically ranges from a few weeks to several months, depending on the severity of your addiction and your individual needs.

In this setting, you will receive round-the-clock care and support from a team of healthcare professionals, including doctors, therapists, counselors, and support staff. Treatment typically begins with a comprehensive assessment to determine your specific needs and develop a personalized treatment plan.

Inpatient treatment for marijuana abuse may include a variety of therapeutic interventions, such as:

  • individual therapy
  • group therapy
  • behavioral therapy
  • holistic therapies

These therapies aim to address the underlying issues contributing to marijuana abuse, develop coping skills to manage cravings and triggers, and promote long-term recovery.

Marijuana leaf, CBD oil and some capsules representing the link between marijuana legalization and addiction
Recognizing the link between marijuana legalization and addiction, treatment centers developed different treatment approaches.

The greatest benefit of inpatient treatment is its structured nature and the fact that it is free from external distractions and triggers. Such an environment allows you to focus solely on your recovery. This immersive experience fosters personal growth, self-discovery, and the development of healthy habits and coping mechanisms.

Outpatient programs for marijuana abuse

Recognizing the link between marijuana legalization and addiction, addiction treatment centers such as ours have recognized the need for different treatment options. So, we offer outpatient programs for marijuana abuse, which is a more flexible option. It is suitable for anyone who does not require round-the-clock supervision or residential care. These programs allow you to attend scheduled therapy sessions and receive support while continuing to live at home and maintain your daily responsibilities, such as work, school, or family commitments.

During outpatient programs, you typically attend therapy sessions on a regular basis. These sessions are technically the same as those you would get at inpatient facilities, and they have the same goals: helping you pinpoint the root cause of your marijuana abuse and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

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Outpatient programs offer a range of services tailored to meet the individual needs of each participant. Some programs may offer specialized approaches for specific populations, such as adolescents, adults, or individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders. Also, these programs may provide access to additional support services, such as:

  • medication-assisted treatment
  • dual diagnosis therapy
  • psychiatric care
  • vocational support

The flexibility of outpatient programs enables you to gradually transition back into your daily life while receiving ongoing support and guidance from your treatment team.

THC in marijuana: effects, risks, and medical potential

THC is the primary culprit for the link between marijuana legalization and addiction. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis plants. It provides the euphoric effects of marijuana. THC interacts with receptors in the brain and central nervous system to cause a variety of effects, including euphoria, relaxation, altered sensory perception, and increased appetite. The positive effects of THC are the reason for the increased connection between the legalization of marijuana and addiction or abuse.

A hand in blue glove holding marijuana plant representing the connection between marijuana legalization and addiction
Marijuana legalization and addiction are connected, but there are some benefits to using marijuana.

Studies suggest that THC might offer medical advantages in addition to its recreational use. This is one of the reasons for making marijuana legal in California. These advantages can include the ability to reduce nausea, muscle spasms, and chronic pain. In 2022, there were 3,199 legal medical marijuana patients in California.

However, because it is psychoactive, it can also have negative consequences, particularly if taken excessively. Reduced cognitive function, anxiety, and paranoia are some of these impacts. That is why we must explore the link between marijuana legalization and addiction.

How long does THC stay in your system?

One of the most commonly asked questions is: How long does THC stay in the system? There is no definitive answer because the length of time THC can stay in your system varies depending on factors such as:

  • frequency of use
  • dosage
  • metabolism
  • the sensitivity of the drug tests used

Generally, THC can be detected in urine for up to 30 days after use, in blood for up to 48 hours, and in saliva for up to 72 hours. However, in chronic users, THC may be detectable in urine for an extended period, sometimes even beyond 30 days. People who are undergoing drug testing, applying for jobs, or taking part in rehabilitation programs frequently ask this question because it enables them to better understand the potential effects of their cannabis use.

Detoxing from THC

The process of eliminating tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the body, also known as THC detox, typically involves quitting cannabis use. Adopting good lifestyle habits can also speed up the removal of THC and its metabolites.

Although the length and frequency of usage, as well as a person’s metabolism, might affect the THC detox timeline, there are several tactics you can apply to help in the detoxification process. These could include:

  • regular exercise to encourage sweating and circulation
  • drinking lots of water to stay hydrated
  • eating a balanced diet high in minerals and antioxidants to support general health
  • resting and sleeping enough

Some people may also benefit from specialist detox programs that provide customized support and guidance during the detoxification process.

A therapist talking to a patient
Some people may need specialized treatment to detox from THC and handle their addiction.

THC withdrawal symptoms

During detox, you may experience withdrawal symptoms as your body adjusts to the absence of THC. THC withdrawal symptoms, while generally milder compared to those associated with other substances, can still present challenges for people seeking to abstain from cannabis use. These symptoms can vary in intensity depending on factors such as the person’s level of dependence and the duration of cannabis use.

Common THC withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Mood swings

While THC withdrawal symptoms often diminish over time, they can still impact daily functioning and quality of life. Seeking support from healthcare professionals, counselors, or support groups can be beneficial in managing these symptoms and navigating the withdrawal process effectively. With proper support and coping strategies, you can successfully overcome this and progress toward long-term recovery and sobriety.

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Insurance options for marijuana addiction treatment

Understanding how insurance works for drug rehab services can be tricky. But it’s crucial to know what options you have so you can get the help you need. If you have Aetna insurance, it’s a good idea to look into what your plan covers. California drug rehab insurance Aetna offers different insurance plans with varying levels of coverage for addiction treatment. You can get more information about Aetna’s coverage options for drug rehab in California by getting in touch with them directly or visiting their website. On their website, you can also find a list of the providers who are part of their network and any requirements or restrictions you need to be aware of.

You can also contact us at We Level Up California. We will be happy to help you understand your Aetna rehab coverage and find the best solutions for your needs.

Marijuana leaf on a dollar bill
Marijuana legalization and addiction have some implications, but rehab insurance can usually cover treatment.

Personal development and recovery support

Personal growth plays a crucial role in your journey to overcome addiction. It equips you with the necessary skills and support to carve out a new path forward.

When we talk about personal development in addiction recovery, we refer to a process that helps you grow as an individual. It involves attending events or workshops that focus on:

  • Building life skills – If you are recovering from marijuana abuse, personal development means gaining essential life skills that enable you to tackle daily challenges with confidence. You must learn how to manage stress effectively, establish healthier habits, and navigate obstacles in your path.
  • Business know-how – Working on your business expertise can open doors to exciting job opportunities or even help you launch your own venture. This promotes independence and financial stability, which can give you a sense of purpose and direction.
  • Recovery coaching – A recovery coach provides personalized guidance and support tailored to your needs. They help you stay sober, identify and manage triggers, and foster ongoing personal growth.

Now that you are more familiar with the connection between marijuana legalization and addiction rates in California, it might be a good time to look into the availability of treatment options. If you are struggling with marijuana addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to We Level Up CA. We are at your disposal to give suggestions or answer any questions that you might have. By working together, we can overcome the obstacles that legalizing marijuana presents and open the door to a better, healthier future.


Behavioral Health Barometer. (n.d.). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/California-BH-BarometerVolume5.pdf

Marijuana Use among California Adults.” California Department of Public Health, California Department of Public Health, www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/sapb/CDPH%20Document%20Library/Factsheet_Marijuana_Use_Among_CA_Adults-ADA.pdf.

Marijuana’s Impact on California: 2020.” Missouri Medicine, vol. 118, no. 1, 2021, pp. 22–23, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7861605/.

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