Published in Economics Bulletin, Volume 40, Issue 1, February 1, 2020, pages 338-348.
Medical cannabis access has been shown to affect clinical health outcomes and health care spending. Unlike medical access, which requires a doctor's recommendation for treatment and only applies to the limited conditions approved under the state's medical cannabis program, recreational access makes cannabis available over-the-counter (OTC). This may create additional benefits through off-label cannabis use to treat unlisted conditions, such as acid reflux, which affects two out of three Americans. Using the roll out of recreational dispensaries in Colorado in 2014, we estimate the change in retailers' market share of antacid medications using a difference-in-differences design. Antacid market share decreases after a dispensary enters a county by 0.85 percentage points. Decreases come from histamine receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors. Decreased antacid use may occur through direct substitution for OTC antacids, through changes in dietary behaviors that reduce antacid use, or both. More work is needed to disentangle these two effects.
© 2020 The Authors
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