In the United States, the legalization of cannabis linked to a drop in the rate of obesity

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While cannabis is notorious for making you hungry, a recent study found that the legalization of cannabis is associated with lower levels of obesity.

The study, published this month by the Journal of Health Economicsanalyzed obesity data in Washington State, one of the first states to legalize cannabis, from 2002 to 2018.

Researchers from North Dakota State University, Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise and some Metropolitan State University of Denver said that despite the cannabis snacking factor and general concerns about obesity, the relationship between legalization and excessive weight gain “remains an open and understudied question.”

To help fill this gap, the study set out to examine what happened in Washington state in the years after cannabis stores opened, compared to the rest of the country, and after controlled for other factors.

The experiment showed that “the opening of cannabis dispensaries for adults led to decreases in obesity rates. Specifically, the state’s obesity rate “is on average 5.4% lower” than other states, compared to an average difference of -0.01% in the years before legalization.

“Our primary experiment found that cannabis legalization, which allowed cannabis dispensaries to open, led to lower obesity rates in Washington state,” the authors wrote. “This is somewhat surprising given previous literature finding that cannabis use is often associated with increased consumption of unhealthy foods and lethargy. »

“As more states move toward decriminalization, expanded medical use, and legalized recreational use of cannabis, our findings shed important light on contemporary policy in drugs,” the study says. “Providing a more robust understanding of the relationships between recreational cannabis use and obesity rates also provides insights for public health policy examining the determinants and behaviors that may increase obesity. »

“Our findings also provide insights for health economics and health policy more broadly, as obesity rates continue to pose health and financial challenges across the United States,” she adds. .

A major limitation of the study is that it does not pinpoint exactly why legalization appears to be linked to declining obesity rates, and so future research should seek to identify these potential mechanisms.

“The cumulative effect on obesity depends on the impact of cannabis use on a range of factors, including physical health, mental health, dietary changes, physical activity, and drinking habits,” write the authors of the study. “Ultimately, how cannabis legalization affects obesity is an empirical question that requires further investigation. »

The study breaks one of the stereotypes associated with cannabis users. A recent study also challenged the cliché of lazy, unmotivated cannabis users, with researchers finding no difference in apathy or reward-based behavior between people who used cannabis at least once per week. week and non-consumers.

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