Study: Passage Of Medical Marijuana Laws Correlated With Fewer Suicides

[Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]

The enactment of statewide laws allowing for the limited use of cannabis therapeutically is associated with reduced instances of suicide, according to a discussion paper published recently by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany.

Researchers at Montana State University, the University of Colorado, and San Diego State University assessed rates of suicide in the years before and after the passage of statewide medical marijuana laws.

Authors found, “The total suicide rate falls smoothly during the pre-legalization period in both MML (medical marijuana law) and non-MML states. However, beginning in year zero, the trends diverge: the suicide rate in MML states continues to fall, while the suicide rate in states that never legalized medical marijuana begins to climb gradually.

They reported that this downward trend in suicides in states post-legalization was especially pronounced in males. “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,” they determined.

Authors theorized that the limited legalization of cannabis may “lead to an improvement in the psychological well-being of young adult males, an improvement that is reflected in fewer suicides.” They further speculated, “The strong association between alcohol consumption and suicide-related outcomes found by previous researchers raises the possibility that medical marijuana laws reduce the risk of suicide by decreasing alcohol consumption.”

They concluded: “Policymakers weighing the pros and cons of legalization should consider the possibility that medical marijuana laws may lead to fewer suicides among young adult males.”

Full text of the discussion paper, “High on Life: Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide,” is available online here.

41 thoughts

  1. I think about Suicide actually pretty often… I have an easy solution. I smoke a bowl or eat some cookies!! OHIO MML PLEASE

  2. Very well written article.

    I thank you Norml, for putting this awareness out there.

    I have 110% beliefs in this article.

    I thank you Norml once again for every written article here at Norml, and with this support that you supply, it does indeed help a lot.


  3. A combination of Asperger’s syndrome and a dysfunctional family lead me to contemplate suicide every day from the 8th grade through my early 20’s.

    I remember one day I woke up in the hippie commune and realized I hadn’t thought about killing myself in 3 whole days–in a row!

    I never realized it might be the marijuana.

  4. Alright. I’m seeing such a positive outcome of cannabis use
    that with all the evidence taken together its just plain
    stupidity ignorance irresponsible behaviour from our
    politicains that continue to disserve us.

  5. Maybe this is why the “decent folk” don’t want marijuana legalized? They don’t like us and they don’t want anything legalized that might make us live longer. They really are repugnant.

  6. As much as I would like to believe this, correlation does not equal causation. We cannot be certain that the lower lower rates of suicides in these states are due to the legalization of medical cannabis, despite the seemingly strong connection.

    [Paul Armentano responds: Correct: correlation is not causation and I specifically used the former term in the headline to be clear that the data was establishing a strong association, but not necessarily causation. Nevertheless, the correlation is notable and the study’s authors clearly believe that the liberalization of cannabis is playing a larger role than other potential environmental factors.]

  7. Could someone explain those charts a little bit better than the pdf explains them?

    If I’m reading it right, it seems to be saying that states that now have Medical Marijuana Laws in place used to have extremely high suicide rates compared to other states.

    [Paul Armentano responds: In fact, the charts state the opposite.]

  8. fishcreekbob says: “Yeah but how do you get them to see.”

    They already know…they simply don’t care. They care more about their overhead and profits concerning their Prison industrial empire as well as your private property, they could care less about your tranquility and introspection or peace of mind.

    They have built a huge infrastructure of parasitism that generates a cash flow in “their” direction.They look at it like a ‘law of nature” we are the predators and your the game. The illusion of morality is one of their propoganda weapons that they use as a bluff,

    But if they had any morals at all they would look at the overwhelming evidence that shows that cannabis is a multifaceted beneficial herb on so many levels… But, they only see it as a competition with their infrastructures,but it’s really a competition against nature and humanity.

    You would think Congress- with an approval rating of 9 percent and public approval for cannabis legalislation being over 60 % …well,i guess it speaks for itself then.

    VOTE EM OUT,ONE AT A TIME! if its not to late.

  9. I know it’s just anicdotal, but I would have killed myself a long time ago if it wasn’t for the help that cannabis gives with my anxiety and depression. Pharmaceuticals, and many of them at that, never did me any good.

  10. Now, if prohibitionists embrace the correlation is not causation principle to discredit this study, their entire list of anti-marijuana arguments falls apart.

  11. cannabis, the only thing that helps control headaches that make me want to kill myself. even in the states where they have medical marijuana they are charging too much for the paperwork.

  12. Depression is a medical condition. It can lead to Suicide.

    Aiding someone committing suicide is a crime in some states.

    Forcing me to take antidepressants that cause damage to my body, at the risk of my depression overcoming me, compounded by the fact I know what treats my depression and it will land me in jail…

    I would say my state is violating its own laws by encouraging me to committ suicide by ignoring my medical condition and its treatment.

    Pills dont work, they make you shit water and feel sick so I guess that distracts you from suicide for a while.

  13. I think if God appeared and flat out said it was created for our benefit, the supreme court would rule against the word of God.

  14. to Tlc
    yeah your right they would say he was the anti-Christ trying to destroy our children and crucify him again

  15. man, this hits a nerve….since my employer began hair testing three years ago,i have had so many more thoughts of the darker side of this life. depression, i believe , has been handed down to me from my folks and, as one who has consumed the remedy for thirty two years (all of my adult life)i can say i have had none of the feelings im dealing with now.i fight taking pills for it because they do not benefit and cause physical discomfort along with a distorted attitude. i am truly a miserable bastard after three years without the balance i had while comsuming cannabis.thank you norml for bringing this issue to light. peace to you all….i hope we can all can feel the peace from life through cannabis again soon……

  16. I am one of the many people who have benefited from marijuana in a really huge way. It is a near certainty that without marijuana in my life I would have committed suicide in my late 20s. I was depressed about how my life was unfolding and marijuana helped me to get past it and to see my life in a different and superior perspective. At that time, I tried an anti-depressant called Serzone. It made me feel totally lethargic and seemed to make me feel as though I didn’t care about anything – good or bad. So much for the Big Pharma alternatives…

  17. I’m so happy that NORML continues to fight against this small elite group of “people” who want to control our lives and try to force us to live the way they want us to live. If that group wins this war (people like John Boehner, Lamar Smith, and Newt Gingrich…) we all may as well kill ourselves rather than be subject to the life they want us to live…

  18. this passage is common sense.who would have thought a natural plant that grows wild would save lives as opposed to the man made anti-depresent DRUGS that blatently state death as a side effect!

  19. Cannabinoid receptors within the brain of EVERYONE! Chemicals that reside within the chemical makeup naturally and physiologically. It already exists neurologically for the specific purposes of neuropathy. You have receptors within your brain, YES YOU, that interact positively with this beneficial medicine. Coincidence? Hardly. You can’t make up the truth. Legalize it and stop with the BS reefer madness. Alcohol kills. Tobacco kills. Certain toxic prescribed meds kill or simply don’t work, placebo?. All perfectly legal might I add. Cannabis kills ZERO! NONE! NUNCA! For some reason it’s not acceptable? Only the laws that apply to it cause harm and destruction. Get that through your thick skulls. Of course if you smoke all day it’s going to effect your mind? Moderation folks, MODERATION! 21+ and the reason I say this is because it’s known that the mind still develops into early stages of adulthodd and even though it’s at a minimal pace 21+ should be the number. Sorry young bucks but you can wait a few more years. Always consume in a logical and moderate manner. Know your limits! That goes for anything people do, correct? That’s the problem everyone thinks their superman or wonder woman. The illegality that cannabis currently finds itself in was all done to corner the markets. Why do the FEDS have a patent on these chemicals when they occur naturally? FEDS? Explain, if you can. I won’t hold my breath. If everyone could grow their own medicine, fibers, proteins, oxygen, etc then how would the “powers that be” ever make $$$ off of it. Bunch of greedy, self-serving sociopaths. Looks as though people are catching on to your ploys. You got caught in your own lies, own up to it. Again, I won’t hold my breath. Apologize to everyone else in the world but when your own people catch FEDS fragmenting the truth to the benefit of BIGS you can’t even man up and admit that your wrong! Nits.

  20. Now is the time for more passive aggressive action.If you’re not registered to vote get registered. Start fighting back our constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness and prosperity are at stake big Govt. is getting bigger while everyone sits on their butts picking their nose wondering what can be done to make a difference.Were aloud the freedom of speech and if it is going to get changed everyone has to quit being afraid and be heard.Sitins protests passive ones, come on IS THIS WHY OUR FOREFATHERS DIEDAND FOUGHT FOR? I say the govt is ours not the crooked politions out to stiffle our inaleable rights and freedoms. The more we do nothing the worse it will get, wether its QOUTE UNQUOTE STREAMLINING OUR GOVT or the crooks that want it to stay illegal so they have more profit and controll over this issue. To my understanding we need 35000 signitures to change the law that Wyoming passed saying they will not honour Medicinal Marijuana cards from Montana or from Clorado. I became disabled in my early 30’s.I will be taking man made chemicals the rest of my life.The lozenges help they work the edibles the teas work we need to stand together as one nation under GOD and HELP NORMAL any way we can and get Big Brother to understand the actual benefits I’m not saying every little stoner go get stoned I’m saying let’s band together as a nation and get this Legal battle won.The poeple who are truely sick and need it’s health benefits lets make sure we are not treated like criminals for being ill when this can also bail our economy out at the same time.Please I am urging people to help create a pettition with all of the signatures and more,and we need NORMAL Please help us in Wyoming and all across the country fight back.Tell us where you need help. Now is the time for us to take back our rights that are ours from birth freedom,WE NEED HELP IN THE ROCKIES.WE can pay our money to bail out this Govt.but we are bound and gagged losing our freedoms our voices our beliefs.I am not the only person thats in this situation.We need to be organized and united Wake up out there you sheep to the slaughter,Join your local NORMAL if there is not one where you live.Get one started.I

  21. @Calcula7ed:

    I really can’t stand it when some people extol the benefits of cannabis and proclaim it harmless, but then turn around and claim that only people over 21 (as opposed to 18) should be allowed to experience these benefits. If cannabis is really so wonderful and safe like you say, why limit this wonder drug to only people over 21? There is really no scientific evidence that cannabis is any more dangerous for an 18 year old than for a 21 year old. And the brain actually continues to develop into the 30s and 40s, and possibly even beyond that, so 21 is completely arbitrary. 18 makes far more sense as that is the legal age of adulthood, and we all know that 18-20 year olds will continue to do it whether it’s legal or not. I do agree that moderation is the key, and cannabis is only harmful if you abuse it.

    By the way, I will be turning 28 this month, so I really don’t have a dog in the fight.

  22. how in the hell can a drug test for pot get you fired 20 days after you smoked it ???????????? i don’t want to work with anyone who is high, but after work, what hell is wrong with this system. your not high 2 days after smoking, or 1 day after for that matter. gimmie a light!!!

  23. I am 63 and have been fighting suicidal urge for 20 years. Depression, persistent headache disorder (NDPH) and more. Always was waiting till my parents died and I retired with solid pension for my wife. Done with those now but other factors interfere so that my suicide will harm the family I love even more. Can’t do it, can’t bring the hurt on them. But that knowledge doesn’t stop the very powerful urges to do it now.

    Medical cannabis brings me back from the brink to the ease and comfort of life’s beauty. I don’t care about me but I am alive for my family because of it.

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