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Drug and Alcohol Dependence Reports






Background: Sexual minority women (SMW) are at greater risk for heavy episodic drinking, frequent marijuana use, and tobacco use than heterosexual women. Because past research has suggested the political and social environment may influence disparities in substance use by sexual orientation, this study examined associations of the U.S. state-level policy environment on substance use by SMW.

Methods: A total of 732 SMW participants were recruited from two national online panels: a general population panel (n = 333) and a sexual minority-specific panel (n = 399). Past year substance use was defined by number of days of heavy episodic drinking (HED; 4+ drinks in a day), weekly tobacco use (once a week or more vs. less or none), and weekly marijuana use (once a week or more vs. less or none). Comprehensive state policy protection was defined by enactment of five policies protecting rights of sexual minorities. Regression models compared substance use outcomes for SMW living in states with comprehensive policy protections to SMW living in states with fewer or no protections. Models also assessed the impact of state policies related to alcohol (state monopoly on alcohol wholesale or retail sales), tobacco (state enactment of comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws) and marijuana (legalization of purchase, possession, or consumption of marijuana for recreational use).

Results: Comprehensive policy protections were associated with fewer HED days. Recreational marijuana legalization was associated with higher odds of weekly use.

Conclusions: Findings underscore the importance of policy protections for sexual minorities in reducing substance use, particularly HED, among SMW.


Alcohol, Marijuana, Tobacco, Sexual minority women, LGBTQ, State policy, Recreational marijuana laws


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