Article by Angela Stelmakowich, Growth Op
A review of dozens of studies shows that legalizing cannabis has definite public health benefits, suggests a new working paper by two economists at the U.S.-based National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
Indeed, the review of literature on the public health consequences of legalizing medical and recreational cannabis — focusing on studies in economics journals and leading public policy, public health and medical journals — has convinced economists D. Mark Anderson and Daniel I. Rees.
They conclude that giving the green light to marijuana has produced three distinct public health benefits: life-saving reductions in tobacco consumption, reduced alcohol use and traffic deaths and declining violent crime, according to the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).
The paper from NBER, a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization, considers a number of different outcomes, namely youth weed use, alcohol consumption, the abuse of prescription opioids, traffic fatalities and crime.
Anderson and Rees point out the literature dealing with the effects of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) had achieved almost near consensus. “As an example, leveraging geographic and temporal variation in MMLs, researchers have produced little credible evidence to suggest that legalization promotes marijuana use among teenagers. Likewise, there is convincing evidence that young adults consume less alcohol when medical marijuana is legalized,” states the paper, dated April 2021.
That is important, FEE reports, since both tobacco and alcohol consumption are associated with deaths from lung diseases and traffic deaths, respectively.
The foundation cited studies in the review that found medical marijuana laws are associated with a drop in cigarette use among teens and legalizing recreational weed has produced a fall in tobacco demand.
“In general, there is little evidence that legalization has encouraged the smoking of tobacco; if anything, it has discouraged its use,” the paper notes. “Similarly, an accumulating body of research suggests that MML adoption is associated with reductions in prescription medications for disorders such as depression, anxiety, and epilepsy,” it adds.
As for alcohol, studies show legalizing adult-use cannabis is associated with a five per cent drop in alcohol sales and a 20 per cent drop in binge drinking among respondents to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health survey.