Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Associated With Decreased Obesity

Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Associated With Decreased Obesity

San Diego, CA: The enactment of statewide laws permitting the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes is associated with an annual reduction in obesity-related medical costs, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Health Economics.

Investigators at San Diego State University and Cornell reviewed twelve years of data from the US Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to examine the effects of medical marijuana laws on body weight, physical wellness, and exercise.

They reported, "[T]he enforcement of MMLs (medical marijuana laws) is associated with a 2% to 6% decline in the probability of obesity. … Our estimates suggest that MMLs induce a $58 to $115 per-person annual reduction in obesity-related medical costs."

For those age 35 or older, authors determined that the passage of medical cannabis laws is "associated with an increase in physical wellness and frequent exercise consistent with the hypothesis of some medicinal use of marijuana." For younger adults, researchers theorized that obesity declines are the result of less alcohol use.

They concluded, "These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that MMLs 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 findings are consistent with prior studies finding that those with a history of cannabis use possess lower body mass index and reduced rates of obesity compared to non-users.

Preclinical data published this month in the journal PLoS ONE also reports that the administration of cannabinoids is associated with weight gain prevention in mice with diet-induced obesity.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, "The effect of medical marijuana laws on body weight," appears in Health Economics.