As many as one in five adults in Minnesota used marijuana before its legalization last year, according to a new state report.
But as marijuana use increased between 2018 and 2022, so did cannabis-related calls to the state's poison control center.
The state-commissioned report published earlier this month paints the clearest picture yet of the prevalence of cannabis use in Minnesota and its broader impacts before it was legalized in 2023. State regulators will use the data as a baseline to measure the impact of legalization in the coming years.
Minnesota's legal recreational marijuana industry likely won't fully launch until next year.
The report encompasses everything from adult and adolescent marijuana use to traffic safety to health impacts to black-market data. Here are the highlights:
Usage up and down
The share of Minnesotans estimated to have used marijuana at least once in the past year rose from 13% in 2020 to 19% in 2022, according to the report.
Among Minnesotans age 18-25, the rate was twice as high, with 39% in that group reporting using marijuana in the past year. Nearly 29% of Minnesotans in that age group reported using marijuana in the past month.
Many Minnesotans started using marijuana during the pandemic.
Cannabis use appears to be infrequent and even decreasing among middle- and high-school students.
"The percentage of students in all age groups self-reporting never using marijuana is increasing," the report stated.
Poison control calls spike
Cannabis-related calls to poison control more than doubled between 2018-22 in Minnesota. Calls involving children 5 years old or younger increased more than six-fold, almost all of them due to accidental consumption. For adults, most calls were from purposeful consumption/overconsumption.
In 2022, edibles became the most common cause of cannabis-related poison control calls. That year, Minnesota explicitly legalized hemp-derived food and beverages containing THC, the ingredient in cannabis that causes a high, for adults age 21 and older.
Retailers had already been selling unregulated hemp-derived THC products around Minnesota for several years, including some high-dose edibles with packaging similar to established candy brands. That kind of branding has been outlawed.
Hospital visits related to cannabis remained mostly stable between 2018-22.
The report also noted the potency of marijuana found in Minnesota has increased through the years, similar to the rest of the country.
Traffic safety tough to measure
The number of drivers on Minnesota roads testing positive for THC grew from 1,733 in 2018 to 2,794 in 2022.
That's a significant increase of 61%, but marijuana tests can't confirm whether someone was high at the time of the test since THC remains detectable in one's system for weeks after consumption. That does not shield intoxicated drivers from criminal convictions, however.
There were nearly 3,000 drug-related driving while intoxicated charges in 2022, a 25% jump from 2018, though the report didn't break down DWI statistics by type of drug. Alcohol DWI charges fell 10% in the same time period.
Fatal crashes involving a positive THC test, which does not confirm intoxication, doubled from 2018 levels to almost 150 in 2020 but fell 36% in 2021. There was no data available for 2022 and beyond.
Black market sales
The report estimated there are seven major drug-trafficking organizations dealing in marijuana or THC products in Minnesota as of 2022, a decline from a high 13 in 2019 but stable since 2020. Authorities consider a majority of these groups in the region violent.
If the legal market is successful in driving away black-market sales and violent dealers, the report didn't venture a guess.
"Currently, there is little data available about how recreational marijuana legalization might impact the illicit market and the operations of [drug-trafficking organizations] producing and selling marijuana in Minnesota. ... Illicit markets persisted in other states where recreational marijuana was legalized," the report read.
Price and convenience could help determine the success of the state's legal market, however.
More than a quarter of users surveyed in legal marijuana states cited price as the reason they continued to buy from illegal sources, and 17% said "inconvenience of legal sources" was a reason they stuck with their dealer, the report said.
Marijuana arrests had declined in the years leading up to legalization, with a 32% drop in possession charges and a stark 87% decline in marijuana-sale arrests between 2018 and 2022.
Enforcement grew more targeted to THC vape cartridges and other non-plant products. The weight and combined potency of such seizures grew significantly since 2018.
The number of juveniles charged with "unlawfully selling one or more mixtures containing marijuana or THC" decreased about 54% since 2018, the report said. The number of children charged with possessing more than 1.4 grams of marijuana in a vehicle dropped nearly 44%.
Read the report:
(Can't see the document? Click here.)