Who would have thought? Apparently, marijuana legalization is responsible for something weight watchers have failed to do – it took a bite out of the American obesity epidemic. At least that’s the finding of a new study in the journal Health Economics. Researchers from San Diego State University and Cornell University have found information that proves that passing a medical marijuana law “is associated with a 2 percent to 6 percent decline in the probability of obesity.” According to them, this effect could only become larger over the longer period.

But, What About The Munchies?

It doesn’t really make sense, does it? Cannabis is a well-known appetite stimulant. It depends on the strain, but most of them provoke crazy food cravings. This is something that the study’s authors also noticed, only they have put it differently: “randomized control trials provide evidence that marijuana use leads to increased appetite and caloric intake.” But they weren’t concerned with the munchies in this study. Instead, they wanted to investigate if increased marijuana availability has some, if any, effects on variety of health outcomes at the societal level. Their methodology included analyzing over 20 years of data from the federal Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS).

Obesity Rates Are Lower

The Californian University, led by economist Joseph Sabia, examined public-health surveys nationwide from 1990 through 2012 and found that in states where medicinal marijuana laws have been enacted, obesity rates are 2 percent to 6 percent lower than expected. 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 were the result of less alcohol use and for older adults use of cannabis can lead to greater mobility. As far as youngsters are concerned, this so-called substitution effect is often mentioned in arguments for legalizing marijuana: If you legalize it, many people will choose pot over alcohol and as a result, alcohol consumption will fall. But it’s difficult to make these claims, because some research has shown that marijuana availability decreases alcohol consumption, while others have found that it increases it.

It’s Not All Black And White

Before you head out to the nearest marijuana dispensary for a weight-loss prescription, read on what researchers had to say. You see, these studies are never that straightforward. The researchers said they observed effects that have to do with the public-health effects of marijuana policy on large populations of people. The health surveys they used to make these estimates do not directly measure marijuana use among individuals. Sabia told the San Diego Union Tribune: “We are certainly not arguing that medical marijuana laws are a central tool in the fight against obesity. We are arguing that there is an unintended health benefit of these laws in that regard.”


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