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With legal recreational marijuana laws being passed by a number of states in the USA many medical and scientific professionals see an opportunity to research how this drug and these laws impact alcohol use. University of Washington researchers did not find clear answers to this question when they performed a study to determine whether legal recreational marijuana increased or decreased alcohol use in certain groups. Researchers say that it is very difficult to gauge impact because the drug was previously illegal and illicit but it is now moving into mainstream use. In the United States alone 23 states have passed legal medical marijuana laws, and 4 states have passed laws to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. According to the lead author of the study, Katarína Guttmannová, “We chose to focus on alcohol because even relatively small changes in alcohol consumption could have profound implications for public health, safety, and related costs.”

The study on legal recreational marijuana and alcohol use did not provide the clear answers that researchers were seeking. Since marijuana and alcohol both work on the reward center of the brain, and one drug may complement the other when both are used together, the goal was to see whether people were using pot instead of alcohol or using both substances together. Guttmannová explained “This is a complicated issue and requires a nuanced approach. We were hoping to have more clear-cut answers at the end of our research. But you know what? This is the science of human behavior, and it’s messy, and that’s OK.”