10 Scientific Studies From 2016 Showing Marijuana Is Safe and Effective

Article by Paul Armentano, AlterNet.

While no psychoactive substance is completely harmless, modern science continues to prove that cannabis is one of the safer and more effective therapeutic agents available. Here’s a look back at some of the most significant marijuana-centric studies published over the past year.

1. Pot Use Doesn’t Adversely Impact IQ

The cumulative use of cannabis by adolescents has no ill effect on intelligence, according to longitudinal data published in January in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Investigators evaluated intellectual performance in two longitudinal cohorts of adolescent twins. Participants were assessed for intelligence at ages 9 to 12, prior to any marijuana exposure, and again at ages 17 to 20. They concluded: “In the largest longitudinal examination of marijuana use and IQ change, … we find little evidence to suggest that adolescent marijuana use has a direct effect on intellectual decline.”

2. Cannabis Consumption Is Correlated With Lower BMI

Those who use marijuana, on average, possess a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who abstain from the herb. So reported researchers at the University of Miami this past July in The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics. Investigators assessed the relationships between marijuana use and body mass index over time in a nationally representative sampling of American adolescents. They concluded: “[D]aily female marijuana users have a BMI that is approximately 3.1 percent lower than that of non-users, whereas daily male users have a BMI that is approximately 2.7 percent lower than that of non-users.” Lower BMI is associated with less risk of heart disease and other potential adverse health issues.

3. Fewer Traffic Fatalities Occur In Medical Cannabis States

The passage of medical marijuana legalization is associated with reduced traffic fatalities among younger drivers, according to data published this month in the American Journal of Public Health. Investigators from Columbia University assessed the relationship between medical cannabis access and motor vehicle accidents over a nearly three-decade period (1985 to 2014). They reported: “[O]n average, MMLs (medical marijuana laws) states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML states. …. MMLs are associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, particularly pronounced among those aged 25 to 44 years. … It is possible that this is related to lower alcohol-impaired driving behavior in MML-states.”

4. Pot Patients Spend Less On Prescription Drugs

Patients who reside states where medical cannabis is legal spend less money overall on conventional medications. So determined University of Georgia scientists in July. Researchers assessed the relationship between medical marijuana legalization laws and physicians’ prescribing patterns in 17 states over a three-year period (2010 to 2013). Specifically, researchers assessed patients’ consumption of and spending on prescription drugs approved under Medicare Part D in nine domains: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity. Authors reported that prescription drug use fell significantly in seven of the nine domains assessed, and they estimated that nationwide legalization would result in a savings of more than $468 million in annual drug spending.

5. Pot Users No More Likely Than Abstainers to Access Health Care Services

Cannabis consumers are not a drain on the health care system. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin assessed the relationship between marijuana use and health care utilization in a nationally representative sample of US adults aged 18 to 59 years old. Theirfindings appeared in October in the European Journal of Internal Medicine. They determined that pot users, including habitual consumers, were no more likely than non-users to be admitted to the hospital or to access outpatient health care services. Researchers concluded, “[C]ontrary to popular belief, … marijuana use is not associated with increased healthcare utilization, [and] there [is] also no association between health care utilization and frequency of marijuana use.”

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