Smoking pot gives you the munchies, and eating junk food causes obesity, right. So, it’s a bit stunning to learn about new research that found states with medical marijuana laws have a 2% to 6% decline in the probability of obesity.
The researchers estimate that breaking out the bowl in these states “induces a $58 to $115 per-person annual reduction in obesity-related medical costs.”
Researchers from Cornell University and Sand Diego State University published their study, “The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Body Weight,” in the latest issue of Health Economics.
Their study is the first to examine the effects of medical marijuana laws on body weight, physical wellness, and exercise.
The study noted that, “For older individuals, medical marijuana law-induced increases in physical mobility may be a relatively important channel,” which makes sense given that medical marijuana is commonly used for the treatment of chronic pain, and reduced pain results in increased mobility.
“Our findings show that the enactment of medical marijuana laws is associated with a 3.1% reduction in the probability of alcohol consumption and a 4.8% reduction in the probability of binge drinking,” the study says.
For younger individuals, the study points to this group substituting alcohol with marijuana, thereby reducing the high calories that come with drinking.
“These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that medical marijuana laws may be more likely to induce marijuana use for health-related reasons among older individuals, and cause substitution toward lower-calorie recreational ‘highs’ among younger individuals,” the authors concluded.
The data the researchers used came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System – a system of health-related telephone surveys that collect state data about U.S. residents regarding their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services – between 1990 and 2012.
Rosalie Pacula, director of the BING Center for Health Economics at the RAND Corp told The Washington Post, “I believe that these findings should be interpreted very cautiously – as they could plausibly be reversed in the future, when other analyses are done using data sets that contain either (a) state representative populations over time, or (b) longer time periods for later policies.”
For now, weigh in with your opinions by commenting below. Does older adults in chronic pain who use marijuana become more active, and thereby burn more calories? Do younger adults in states with medical marijuana laws substitute alcohol with marijuana, and thereby reduce their caloric input? Or, is it too early to tell?