Ganja saves lives. Literally. According to a new study by a group of economists, the availability of medical weed leads to a dip in suicide rates among young men.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, was prepared by three economics researchers in Colorado, Montana and California. Co-author Daniel Rees of the University of Colorado Denver has studied numerous medical issues related to marijuana in the past.
The researchers compared suicide statistics from states with and without medical marijuana between 1990 and 2007, numbers they obtained from the National Vital Statistics System’s mortality detail files.
States that legalized medicinal pot saw a 10.8 percent drop in the suicide rate among men in their 20s and a 9.4 percent drop among men in their 30s, according to the study. Though the authors were unable to tease apart all the details of this complex correlation, they said it’s consistent with the observation that weed – unlike booze – can help us get through tough times.
“The negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young men is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana can be used to cope with stressful life events,” the authors wrote. “However, this relationship may be explained by alcohol consumption. The mechanism through which legalizing medical marijuana reduces suicides among young men remains a topic for future study.”
Rees co-authored a related study last year that found the availability of legal marijuana leads to less alcohol use by young adults. So more toking could mean less drinking, and alcohol is one of the top causal factors in suicide. In other words, it may be the reduced drinking rather than the benefits of marijuana itself that led to less self-harm.
The study’s findings only applied to young men, not to women.
“The estimates for females were less precise and sensitive to model specification,” Rees said. “In other words, legalization may reduce suicides among females, but we didn’t find conclusive evidence one way or the other. Females could respond to marijuana differently than males. Females could respond to alcohol differently than males. It’s even possible that they respond to legalization differently than males.”
Pot is now legal in two states, Colorado and Washington. Several more are expected to legalize in the next three to five years, from California and Alaska to Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In addition, 21 states – including Colorado and Washington – plus the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana.
Studies touting the previously unknown benefits of weed have been popping up left and right lately. Recent evidence has suggested pot can kill cancer, prevent Alzheimer’s disease and guard against diabetes – and that’s just in the last several months.