Skip to main content

How Do Chile’s Cannabis Policies Affect Onset Of Cannabis Use?

Joint doobie cannabis Joint doobie cannabis Joint doobie cannabis Joint doobie cannabis Joint doobie cannabis

Cannabis opponents tout prohibition policies as being geared towards working to reduce cannabis use, particularly among young people. However, as usage data in every country that prohibits cannabis on Earth demonstrates, cannabis prohibition does not work.

Conversely, cannabis opponents will often offer up doomsday scenarios when cannabis policy reform is being proposed in a given jurisdiction. A growing body of research from jurisdictions that have changed cannabis policies demonstrates that doomsday scenarios do not materialize.

An example can be found in Chile where a team of international researchers affiliated with the following institutions examined Chile’s cannabis policies and reported onset use of cannabis:

  • Université de Sherbrooke, Canada
  • Universidad San Sebastián, Chile
  • Centre d’étude des mouvements sociaux, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, France

“In our paper, we focus on Chile where two policies (Laws 19366 and 20000) were introduced in 1995 and 2005 respectively to regulate and sanction cannabis use, possession, and trafficking. The question we address is how these policies are associated with onset of cannabis use.” the team of investigators stated about their research effort.

“In our analysis, we exploit information on the age of onset to model transitions to first cannabis use. We concentrate on individuals aged 12-21, as over 83% of those who initiate cannabis use in Chile fall within this age range (SENDA, 2019). We use data from 13 national representative and biannual cross-sectional surveys from 1994 to 2018 and administrative information on the number of effectively incarcerated individuals sanctioned by these two laws.” the researchers stated about their study’s methodology.

Cannabis reform has spread across the South American continent, most notably in Uruguay where lawmakers passed the world’s first-ever national adult-use cannabis legalization measure back in 2013. Chile has been slower than many of its continental counterparts to reform cannabis policies, with 2005 being the most recent significant policy change.

“Overall, changes in these laws did not affect the transition to first cannabis use. However, increases in the rate of individuals incarcerated were associated with decreases on the age of onset of cannabis use in females and individuals living in affluent neighborhoods or in specific regions.” the team of international researchers stated about their findings from the Chile study.

“We find no evidence of cannabis policy changes affecting the age of onset of cannabis use across all individuals aged 12-21. Policy effects associated with decreases in cannabis onset age in females and individuals from affluent neighborhoods or specific regions can be explained by using theoretical frames that recognize specific dynamics of cannabis supply and demand.” they concluded.