The Cannabis, Health, and Young Adults (CHAYA) Project
The Cannabis, Health, and Young Adults (CHAYA) project is continuing for an additional five years after the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) awarded study investigators $4.1 million to research the medical and personal use of cannabis in Los Angeles among young adults aged 18 to 20. This project (2R01 DA034067-06A1) is a continuation of a NIDA study begun in 2013 to research the impact of medical cannabis laws on health, drug use, and cannabis use among young adult medical cannabis patient and non-patient users in Los Angeles. This new study, which began on September 30, 2018, is the first project funded by NIDA to specifically examine cannabis use among young adults in California following the legalization of cannabis for personal use in 2016. Dr. Stephen Lankenau, a Professor in the Department of Community Health and Prevention at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health, is the principal investigator of this new study as well as the original 2013 study.
This study emerged out of critical gaps in understanding of how cannabis policies have impacted young adults since cannabis became legal in California for personal use in 2016 and legal sales began in 2018. It is unknown how legalizing cannabis for personal use has impacted patterns of cannabis use among young adults, including use of high potency forms, e.g., edibles, concentrates. It is unknown how legalizing cannabis for personal use has influenced patterns of other drug use and risk behaviors, such as driving under the influence of cannabis. It is unknown how legalizing cannabis for personal use has impacted cannabis use among young adults who cannot legally purchase cannabis, e.g., 18 to 20 year olds, except for medical purposes. To address these gaps, a longitudinal study will continue to research both young medical cannabis patients (n=115) and young non-patient users (n=186) first interviewed in Los Angeles in 2014-15 using qualitative and quantitative methods. In addition, a new cohort of young adult cannabis users (n=150) aged 18 to 20 will be enrolled. All young adults will participate in a baseline interview and three follow-up interviews at one-year intervals. A subset (n=50) will participate in three waves of qualitative interviews. A community advisory board comprised of stakeholders in Los Angeles will advise the study investigators on research strategies, findings, and implications for policy and practice. The central hypothesis guiding this study is that legalizing cannabis for personal use will increase cannabis use, other drug use, and risk behaviors among young adult cannabis users, but this increase will vary by patient status (patient vs. non-patient) and orientation towards cannabis use, i.e., medical vs. non-medical. The long-term goal of this continuing investigation is to inform public policy with study findings on safer and controlled use of cannabis among young adults in an environment where cannabis is legal for personal use.
The study is being led by Stephen Lankenau, PhD (Drexel University), Ellen Iverson, MPH (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles), and Carolyn F. Wong, PhD (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles). This is the fourth NIDA-funded study examining drug use among young adults in Los Angeles led by Dr. Lankenau. Ms. Iverson is an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and is based at the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Wong is an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and is based both at the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine and Division of Research on Children, Youth, and Families at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Collectively, Ms. Iverson and Dr. Wong have led numerous federally and privately funded studies focusing on the health of adolescent and young adults in Los Angeles over the past 25 years. Dr. Lankenau, Ms. Iverson, and Dr. Wong have collaborated on three previously NIDA-funded studies based in Los Angeles.