Examining Associations Between Licensed and Unlicensed Outlet Density and Cannabis Outcomes From Preopening to Postopening of Recreational Cannabis Outlets

Am J Addict. 2021 Mar;30(2):122-130. doi: 10.1111/ajad.13132. Epub 2020 Dec 30.


Background and objectives: To expand on epidemiologic studies examining associations between the legalization of recreational cannabis and use among young adults, we examined the associations between licensed and unlicensed cannabis outlet density and cannabis outcomes.

Methods: A total of 1097 young adults aged 21 and older living in Los Angeles County were surveyed before licensed recreational cannabis outlets opened (Time 1: July to December 2017) and after (Time 2: July 2018 to June 2019). Using a database of open licensed and unlicensed cannabis retailers to calculate individual-level cannabis outlet density measures, we examined associations between outlet density within a 4-mile radius of participants' residences with Time 2 outcomes of any past-month use, daily use, intentions to use, quantity used, consequences, and cannabis use disorder (CUD) symptoms.

Results: After controlling for demographic factors and cannabis outcomes at a time point prior to their opening (Time 1), licensed cannabis outlets were associated with young adults' cannabis use, heavy use, and intentions, and unlicensed outlets were associated with young adults' heavy cannabis use and CUD symptoms.

Conclusion and scientific significance: This study expands beyond studies of outlet prevalence to find that, after controlling for outcomes 1 year prior, licensed and unlicensed outlets were associated with young adults' cannabis outcomes. The current study is among the first to find associations between cannabis use outcomes and density of cannabis outlets among young adults using data from two time points: preopening and postopening of recreational cannabis retailers. Findings can inform policies around the density and placement of cannabis outlets. (Am J Addict 2020;00:00-00).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cannabis*
  • Commerce / organization & administration
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Licensure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Los Angeles / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Illicit Drugs