The idea of mass hysteria from modern superweed cracking people’s fragile minds is often peddled against ideas of personal freedom, medical use, or just the safety of regulated markets when it comes to marijuana legalization. But did that happen anywhere? Well, not in Ontario. 

Mental health episodes being triggered by cannabis are certainly a thing that should never be pushed under the rug, but you also should take a deep breath before stressing too hard. A new analysis out of Canada found it might not be something we need to be as concerned about happening in massive waves following the implementation of legal cannabis, at least in the data they looked at following Canada’s legalization of marijuana. 

Dr. Kelly Anderson, principal investigator for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Project Grant from 2021–2022, led the team of 14 researchers that authored the analysis titled Impact of Non-medical Cannabis Legalization With Market Restrictions on Health Service Use and Incident Cases of Psychotic Disorder in Ontario, Canada.

“There is concern that non-medical cannabis legalization in Canada may have population-level impacts on psychotic disorders,” the authors noted. “We sought to examine changes in health service use and incident cases of psychotic disorder following cannabis legalization, during a period of tight restrictions on retail stores and product types.”

The team started collecting data from all over Ontario between January 2014 to March of 2020. It was a deep dive into the data that started well before legalization and ended well after implementation. From there, the data was further broken down to psychosis-related outpatient visits, emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and inpatient length of stay, as well as incident cases of psychotic disorders. The age range they were looking for the cases in was 14 to 60. 

The researchers found that in that 17-month window following legalization kicking off in Canada, there was no evidence of any increases in the use of health services or incidents of psychotic disorders. The researchers noted they did find an increasing trend in substance-induced psychotic disorders over the whole time frame they looked at. Still, they didn’t find it to be particularly associated with cannabis. 

The authors emphasized in their conclusion that more time is needed to keep an eye on the issue. 

“A longer post-legalization observation period, which includes expansion of the commercial cannabis market, is needed to fully understand the population-level impacts of non-medical cannabis legalization,” the authors noted. “Thus, it would be premature to conclude that the legalization of non-medical cannabis did not lead to increases in health service use and incident cases of psychotic disorder.

The authors went on to note this was happening across all demographics. They said they did not find evidence of differences in different socio-demographic groups when it came to psychotic disorders across the pre- and post-legalization periods. They argued that suggests there is no difference for key population subgroups.

So what does all this mean to the wider legalization debate. Research that isn’t based in the U.S. doesn’t get its fair shake from the FDA always. This is why all the research on CBD out of Europe hasn’t led to a faster rescheduling. Yet most Americans have agreed cannabis has some medical value for over a decade, and especially since the relief all those kids suffering from Dravet’s Syndrome getting relief was shared with the public. 

This forced the anti-cannabis crowd to get even darker with the threat of psychosis impacting numerous people. But now we know that’s not the case. And it wasn’t some random term paper, it was research led by one of Canada’s top public health sector academics. 

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