Public Health FAQs

Minnesota is the 23rd state in the United States to legalize non-medical cannabis use for individuals age 21 and older.[1] Policies related to cannabis are changing rapidly across the United States[1] and new cannabis products are continually being added to the market.[2] The Cannabis Research Center (CRC) summarizes findings to answer common questions related to legalization of cannabis possession, use, and sales. Because this is an emerging research area, there are still many unanswered questions and answers may change as more research is conducted.

FAQ: Cannabis and Public Health

Will cannabis use in Minnesota increase now that it is legal? Will it change how people use cannabis?

  • It will take some time before we know the answers to these questions. Data are being collected now to understand how people are currently using cannabis, and data collection will continue once stores can sell cannabis in Minnesota.
  • Studies of other states that have legalized non-medical cannabis use for adults have not clearly shown how legalization affects use, but there is some evidence that cannabis use has increased among adults but not among youth.[3][4] More studies are needed to better understand what happens after legalization.

Why don’t we know more about how legalization of cannabis affects our health?

  • It takes time to collect enough data before and after a change in a law and to do a wide variety of studies to assess whether the change in the law has negative effects, positive effects, or both.
  • A number of studies have been conducted to assess how legalizing cannabis may affect the health of people in a community or state, but so far the results of these studies are generally inconsistent.[2][3][4][5][6] Replicating studies over time and in different states will paint a clearer picture of the pros and cons of cannabis legalization.
  • There are many types of products—from traditional cannabis flower that is smoked to newer forms of edibles and electronic “vape” products—and potency varies across the products.[2][7] Health benefits and problems may differ by the type and potency of products.
  • There are strict limits on the types of cannabis-related research that can be conducted because federal law still treats cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance (its most restrictive category), and prohibits cannabis possession, sales, and use.[2]

Will youth in Minnesota be harmed by the legalization of cannabis?

It is illegal in Minnesota for individuals under the age of 21 to use cannabis, except for approved use through the state’s medical cannabis program. Although cannabis may provide health benefits for certain medical conditions, use among youth has particular health risks. Cannabis use among youth is related to[8]:

  • problems with brain development that can harm thinking, learning, and memory skills
  • risk of developing a cannabis use disorder, which means they may continue to use cannabis despite experiencing problems resulting from use
  • risk of mental health issues
  • risk of combining with other substances such as alcohol
  • risk of poisoning among young children, particularly from consuming edible cannabis products such as gummies without realizing they contain cannabis[2]

How can we prevent young people in Minnesota and elsewhere from using cannabis products?

We know from research on alcohol and tobacco that making it harder for young people to get these products is one of the most effective ways to prevent illegal use.[9][10] Studies show that there are some ways to prevent youth from accessing illegal cannabis.

  • Caregivers can lock up cannabis products to prevent young people from taking cannabis from home.
  • Communities can work to prevent stores and cannabis dispensaries from selling cannabis products to individuals under age 21 (see next question for more information).

How can we prevent stores and cannabis dispensaries from illegally selling cannabis products to underage youth?

  • Encouragingly, in our study of non-medical cannabis dispensaries in California, we found that 100% of the dispensaries our researchers visited refused entrance to individuals who appeared underage and didn’t have age identification.[11] We cannot assume we will see the same thing in Minnesota because the two states have different systems for regulating these sales.
  • One challenge is that there currently is no licensing requirement for stores to sell hemp-derived cannabis products, which are less potent because they have relatively small amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These lower potency products may still be risky for youth, but it is challenging to determine if stores are selling to youth because they are unlicensed. Monitoring these stores may be an important area for research once the licensing system is created.
  • We know from our research on alcohol and tobacco that regular compliance checks can decrease the likelihood of illegal sales to underage youth.[9][10] A compliance check is an enforcement strategy where an underage youth, supervised by an undercover police officer, attempts to buy alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis; the underage youth is sold to, the seller and/or the business can be penalized. The Minnesota legislature has mandated at least one compliance check per year at every dispensary and store that sells cannabis products once a licensing system has been established. Researchers can study whether one check per year is enough to prevent illegal sales to underage people.

FAQ: Health Benefits and Risks

How could the legalization of cannabis affect the health of adults in Minnesota?

  • Cannabis may help individuals with specific types of illnesses.[2][6][7] For example, some forms of cannabis may reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy. Minnesota legalized use of cannabis for medical reasons in 2014. See the list of medical cannabis qualifying medical conditions in Minnesota. Researchers are still investigating the medical benefits of cannabis use and this list will continue to be updated with the latest research.
  • Cannabis use may also cause health problems.[2][6][7] For example, cannabis can cause the heart to beat faster and increase the risk of a heart attack. Use of cannabis during pregnancy may harm the brain of the unborn baby and the weight of the baby when it is born.
  • Because cannabis policies and products are still changing, we do not yet know the full health benefits and risks for individuals.

Will traffic crashes increase in Minnesota because of cannabis legalization?

  • This is an important question and the answer is not clear. Some studies show an increase in traffic crashes and others do not.[3][4] Part of the work of researchers is to make sense of why research studies do not show a consistent result.
  • A possible reason why the results are inconsistent is that specific laws on how cannabis is produced, tested, and sold vary across states.[1] These differences may affect the number of people using cannabis, what products are used, and whether people choose to drive after using cannabis. All of these can affect the likelihood that cannabis use contributes to traffic crashes.
  • Another challenge is there are no roadside tests (like breathalyzer tests for alcohol) to determine how intoxicated someone is from cannabis.[12] Blood tests are not accurate because THC, the part of cannabis that makes someone high, can stay in the bloodstream long after its effects wear off. Also, people may combine cannabis with other intoxicating substances such as alcohol, making it hard to determine how each drug may contribute to a crash.
  • Additionally, different forms of cannabis can affect how quickly people are intoxicated and for how long. Smoking or vaping cannabis tends to have a quicker effect, but there is a delayed effect for edibles and beverages.[2]
  • As more research is conducted—including in Minnesota—researchers will be better able to answer the question about cannabis and traffic crashes. Researchers in this center will continue to review the research and provide updates.

Will legalizing cannabis result in fewer arrests and incarcerations among people of color in Minnesota?

Legalizing cannabis for adult use may result in fewer arrests, particularly for relatively small amounts of cannabis possession. Despite Black and white individuals using cannabis at roughly the same rate in the US, Black people have been arrested and incarcerated more often for cannabis possession.[13] Decreasing arrests has the potential to improve public health, as incarceration is associated with worse health outcomes.

Will crime increase now that cannabis is legal in Minnesota?

Based on studies done to date, there is currently no clear evidence that crime either increases or decreases following legalization of cannabis.[3][4] There is some evidence that less serious crimes such as vandalism may increase but more studies are definitely needed.

Will opioid use decrease now that cannabis is legal in Minnesota?

Some studies have shown that opioid prescriptions and deaths decrease with cannabis legalization, but other studies show no change or an increase.[3][4][5] As with other areas of cannabis research, as more studies are conducted, we hope to have clearer answers.


  1. Alcohol Policy Information System. Recreational Use of Cannabis: Volume 2. Available at:
  2. National Library of Medicine. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research, 2020. Available at:
  3. Farrelly KN, Wardell JD, Marsden E, Scarfe ML, Najdzionek P, Turna J, et al. The Impact of recreational cannabis legalization on cannabis use and associated outcomes: A systematic review. Subst Abus-Res Treat. 2023;17:22. Available at:
  4. Athanassiou M, Dumais A, Zouaoui I, Potvin S. The clouded debate: A systematic review of comparative longitudinal studies examining the impact of recreational cannabis legalization on key public health outcomes. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2023;13:18. Available at:
  5. Walker M, Carpino M, Lightfoot D, Rossi E, Tang M, Mann R, et al. The effect of recreational cannabis legalization and commercialization on substance use, mental health, and injury: a systematic review. Public Health. 2023;221:87-96. Available at:
  6. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Cannabis (Marijuana and Cannabinoids: What You Need to Know. 2019. Available at:
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Cannabis (Marijuana) Research Report. July 2020.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marijuana and Youth: The Impact of Marijuana Use on Teen Health and Wellbeing. 2023. Available at:
  9. Reducing Underage Access to Alcohol. Alcohol Epidemiology Program. Available at:
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs—2014. Available at:
  11. Fell JC, Toomey T, Eichelberger AH, Kubelka J, Schriemer D, Erickson D. What is the likelihood that underage youth can obtain marijuana from licensed recreational marijuana outlets in California, a state where recreational marijuana is legal? J Safety Res. 2022;82:102-11. Available at;
  12. National Institute of Justice. Field Sobriety Tests and THC Levels Unreliable Indicators of Marijuana Intoxication. April 5, 2021. Available at:
  13. Sheehan BE, Grucza RA, Plunk AD. Association of racial disparity of cannabis possession arrests among adults and youths with statewide cannabis decriminalization and legalization. JAMA Health Forum. 2021 Oct 29;2(10):e213435. Available at:
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