There are plenty of benefits of legalizing medical marijuana, but who would have thought that — with weed's famously munchies-inducing qualities — that it could help reduce obesity?
Well, in a new study published in the journal Health Economics, researchers at San Diego State University and Cornell University found that states that legalize pot experience a drop in obesity and overall BMI.
Seems counterintuitive, right? Marijuana is a well-known appetite stimulant. We picture potheads perpetually reaching for the nearest bag of chips. The researchers even say that "randomized control trials provide evidence that marijuana use leads to increased appetite and caloric intake."
But the researchers were curious how medical marijuana availability could affect a variety of health outcomes at the societal level.
And after looking at more than 20 years of data from the federal Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (including over five million individual survey responses), they found that overall, states that legalized marijuana for medical purposes had a 2% to 6% drop in the probability of obesity and a $58 to $115 per-person annual reduction in obesity-related medical costs.
One of the reasons for this is that, in places where medical marijuana is legal, young people aren’t drinking as much alcohol — which is, obviously, good for their waistlines. And in older people, medical marijuana leads to an increase in mobility by helping them deal with aches and pains — which, of course, combats obesity.
While this is pretty exciting news, it's important to keep in mind that this is just one study. "Rosalie Pacula, director of the BING Center for Health Economics at the RAND Corp., says that the nationally representative BRFSS data is not necessarily the best for sussing out state-level effects," reports the Washington Post. Beyond that, in a number of the states in this study, medical marijuana laws are still very new, so the data on the impact of those laws are relatively sparse."
Just imagine, though: conquering obesity, one puff at a time.