The evidence is becoming more and more clear these days regarding the effects of marijuana, or cannabis, have on their users. We’ve known for decades now (since at least 1974) that cannabis can fight and even cure cancer, let alone it’s uses alleviating the symptoms of other diseases like HIV AIDS, glaucoma, alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory skin disease, and on and on and on…. On top of this, it has been disproven to be a causative factor in acquiring schizophrenia, it has also shown not to cause brain damage (it’s been shown to protect brain cell death caused by alcohol), to the contrary it has been shown to stimulate the growth of neurons (this study also found it reduced measures of anxiety and depression).
Shall we keep going? It’s been shown to be protective against the neurotoxic effects of stroke and head injury. Further evidence has also proved that cannabis is able to slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, MS, Parkinson’s, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
But more recently, and this is the crux of my post, the greater effects of marijuana on society are being studied.
Two recent studies published in the IZA Journal have found that the legalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes has some interesting side effects. Although an increase in adult users has been found, surely because it becomes more acceptable and more readily available, no increase is seen its use by minors. Furthermore, and this is the interesting/awesome part, US states that have legalised medicinal marijuana has been found to be linked with a significant decrease in suicides, and on top of that a significant decrease in fatal car accidents (by being a substitute for alcohol).
The abstracts from the two studies:
Using state-level data for the period 1990 through 2007, we estimate the effect of legalizing medical marijuana on suicide rates. Our results suggest that the passage of a medical marijuana law is associated with an almost 5 percent reduction in the total suicide rate, an 11 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 20- through 29-year-old males, and a 9 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 30- through 39-year-old males. Estimates of the relationship between legalization and female suicides are less precise and are sensitive to functional form.
To date, 16 states have passed medical marijuana laws, yet very little is known about their effects. Using state-level data, we examine the relationship between medical marijuana laws and a variety of outcomes. Legalization of medical marijuana is associated with increased use of marijuana among adults, but not among minors. In addition, legalization is associated with a nearly 9 percent decrease in traffic fatalities, most likely to due to its impact on alcohol consumption. Our estimates provide strong evidence that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes.
This suggests that the effects of legalising cannabis could be positive in many more ways than helping its medicinal users. Who’d have thunk it? If we legalise weed it may apparently become safer on the roads, and fewer people are would commit suicide…
Of late the argument I often hear and read as to why people don’t care about marijuana legalisation one way or another is simply because they are either ignorant to its uses and effects, or they just don’t use it themselves and thus don’t care. It’s high people started looking at the evidence, politicians included, and start making laws that help people instead of deny people help, let alone their personal freedom.
I think it’s only a matter of time before the US completely legalise marijuana. However, that said, people have been saying the same thing since the 1960s. Until that happens I’m going to remain incredibly ashamed of our society staying tough on marijuana (and other drugs), and continue to deny both the sick and the recreational user access to it. Especially, if in the process people’s lives are being lost that could otherwise be saved.
Our society has plenty of issues that need our attention, and this may not be the most important one to focus on for everyone, but it is a good place to start. And good law reform and increased public awareness and education is only going to help improve our society dramatically.
I’ll throw up a few docos and some links FYI: