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Suicide Rates Down in Legal States

Photo by Kenji Aryan


Suicide Rates Down in Legal States

Marijuana advocates have said for years that having access to the sweet leaf may prevent those with suicidal thoughts from going over the edge. A recent study on suicide in medical marijuana states now offers some convincing evidence surrounding this claim.

new report entitled “High on Life? Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide” published by the Cato Institute indicates that not only can marijuana help prevent the permanent perils of suicidal depression, but it can actually reduce the suicide rates by nearly 5 percent in states where it’s legal.

The masterminds behind this important research, D. Mark Anderson from Montana State University, Daniel I. Rees from the University of Colorado, and Joseph J. Sabia from San Diego State University, find “that the legalization of medical marijuana leads to fewer suicides among young adult males.”

This deduction stems from the examination of 17 years worth of statistics from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

“When we examine the relationship between legalization and suicides by gender and age, we find evidence that MMLs are associated with decreased suicides among 20- through 29-year-old males and among 30- through 39-year-old males,” wrote the study authors.

“This result is consistent with registry data from Arizona, Colorado, and Montana showing that most medical marijuana patients are male, and that roughly half are under the age of 40. Estimates of the relationship between legalization and suicides among females are less precise and sensitive to functional form.”

Their latest discovery isn’t the first time this particular group has studied the impact of marijuana on suicide rates. In fact, the team conducted a similar analysis back in 2012 for the Germany-based Institute for the Study of Labor, and just last year, published the results in the American Journal of Public Health.

Although there’s nothing in the study that suggests a reason behind diminishing suicide rates in states where marijuana is legal, researchers believe the cause is relatively simple: marijuana calms episodes of depression. The latest research “is consistent with the oft-voiced, but controversial, claim that marijuana can be used to cope with depression and anxiety caused by stressful life events. However, the result may, at least in part, be attributable to the reduction in alcohol consumption among young adults that appears to accompany the legalization of medical marijuana.”

Many of marijuana’s opposing forces argue against legalization for fear that it will lead to the destruction of the public health, but the latest research indicates that legal marijuana could actually offer some salvation.

“Opponents of these policy changes contend that any increase in marijuana use is undesirable,” wrote the study authors. “Yet our research suggests the public-health benefits of legalization may outweigh the costs.”

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