AMHERST — Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have begun a one-year study to assess the level of marijuana use in the state before legal sales of the drug for recreational use begin.
According to a press release, the investigation — a collaboration between the university’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences the UMass Donahue Institute and staff at the state Department of Public Health — is funded by a $275,000 DPH contract.
The work is part of the state agency’s Marijuana Baseline Health Study. It is designed to “provide public health officials, legislators and others with information to assess baseline rates and patterns of marijuana use, related risk behaviors such as use in combination with alcohol, prescription drugs and impaired driving,” according to a press release.
As part of the study, researchers will look at marijuana-related visits to emergency departments or urgent care facilities. Public health professors Rosa Rodriguez-Monguio and Jennifer Whitehill will lead the research at the public health school.
David Buchanan, chair of health promotion and policy at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, helped to organize two forums last year for Massachusetts lawmakers to hear about impacts of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington State.
In the release, he said that this kind of study was recommended by health directors in both states.
After the forums, the Senate Special Committee on Marijuana unanimously recommended that a baseline study be conducted in Massachusetts. That step was later mandated as part of legislation passed in December 2016 that tweaked the ballot question passed by the voters.