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Research by Drexel Alums Advocate Earmarking Cannabis Tax Revenue for Mental Health Services

June 3, 2022

Research led by Drexel alumni Kylie Brinson, MPH ’22 and Jonathan Purtle, MPH ’10, DrPH ’14 examines the potential impact of earmarking tax revenue from cannabis legalization for mental health services. Their research shows the potential impact of utilizing 25% of tax revenue, breaking down what the increase in mental health funding would mean for a state health departments ability to handle an additional number of mental health encounters through mobile psychiatric units, coordinated specialty care and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This 25% baseline is a marginal step for policymakers when states like New Jersey have earmarked 70% of cannabis tax revenue to benefit communities disproportionately harmed by prohibition.

The research shows the real positive impact that earmarking cannabis taxes can have on mental health. Current research shows that “for some psychosis outcomes, the evidence supports some of the criteria of causality. However, alternate explanations including reverse causality and confounders cannot be conclusively excluded. Furthermore, cannabis is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause psychosis.” This literature review also shows the need for additional research on the triphasic effects of cannabis on mental health given the acknowledgement of reverse causality and confounders. This triphasic effect refers to the potential negative and positive effects of cannabis consumption, the impact of generational trauma caused by mass incarceration fueled by the war on drugs and cannabis prohibition, and the positive effects of earmarking cannabis taxes to mitigate mental health crises before or as they occur.

This triphasic effect is important to understand for researchers and policymakers alike as referenced by the study conducted by DeVylder, Mittal and Schifman that states, “As a result of these complicated and intertwined risk factors, it is not empirically clear that the legal cannabis to psychosis pathway will have greater population-level consequences than the incarceration to psychosis pathway (especially in light of the fact that legalization does not necessarily lead to increased use, and even if it does, not necessarily high-potency use).”

All three of these areas must be considered in order to understand the true net impact of cannabis legalization on mental health and the impact of earmarking cannabis taxes for mental health services.