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Dr. Steven Rigatti MDJul 8, 2021 11:08:00 AM2 min read

Marijuana Use During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr. Steven J. Rigatti explores marijuana use during the COVID-19 pandemic as a follow-up to earlier commentary on alcohol and tobacco use.



This finding raises a similar question about marijuana: did the pattern of usage meaningfully change during the pandemic? As with alcohol, it may be that the stress of isolation and the lack of mandatory attendance at a workplace produced an increase in usage.

CRL has several clients who test nearly all applicants for marijuana metabolites at the time of application. To study usage patterns, data from such carriers were collected from January 2019-December 2020. To correspond with the imposition of stay-at-home orders in the United States, January 2019-March 2020 is designated as the “Early” period, and all subsequent times the “Late” period.

Other data collected included the age, sex, location, and policy face amount of each applicant, as well as questions about tobacco use and urine cotinine testing.

Marijuana positivity is defined as the detectable presence of delta-9-THC in the urine. Generally, this method detects very recent use (1–2 days) or considerable chronic use. It does not detect cannabidiol (CBD) or other marijuana alkaloids.

Overall Time Trend

Graph: Time trend of positive MJ<

Other Correlates

The figure below illustrates these differences and demonstrates that nearly all face amount and smoking status combinations saw an increase in marijuana positivity between the early and late periods.

Graph: MJ Positive rate by time interval



About the Author

Dr. Steven J. Rigatti is a consulting medical director with Clinical Reference Laboratory, with 12 years’ experience in the life insurance industry. He is the current chair of the Mortality Committee of the American Academy of Life Insurance Medicine.