Regular Cannabis Use During the First Year of the Pandemic: Studying Trajectories Rather Than Prevalence


Introduction:

Cannabis use in the U.S. rose early in the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is unclear whether that rise was temporary or permanent. This study estimated the nature and sociodemographic correlates of U.S. adult subpopulations regularly using cannabis by examining weekly trajectories of use during the first year of the pandemic.


Methods:

Data came from the Understanding America Study, a nationally representative panel of U.S. adults (N=8,397; March 10, 2020-March 29, 2021). A growth mixture model was deployed to identify subgroups with similar regular cannabis use. Sociodemographic correlates of subgroups were examined using multinomial logistic regression.


Results:

Four cannabis-use groups were identified. Most participants did not regularly use cannabis (no regular use; 81.7%). The other groups increased regular use until April 2020 but then diverged. Some (7.1%) decreased thereafter, whereas others (3.4%) maintained their elevated use until October 26, 2020 before decreasing. The last group (7.7%) sustained their elevated use throughout. Individuals aged between 18 and 39 years, unmarried, living in poverty, without a college degree, and with longer unemployment or underemployment spells had higher odds of being in the other groups with more weekly use than in the no-regular-use group.


Conclusions:

The analyses revealed population subgroups with prolonged regular cannabis use and a disproportionate concentration of socioeconomically vulnerable members of society in these subgroups. These findings elucidate important heterogeneity in the subpopulations using cannabis, highlighting the urgent need to tailor public health programs for subgroups that may have unique service needs.

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