It’s been a good couple months for medical marijuana – at least when it comes to independent studies about the effects of cannabis laws on society.
Last fall, there was the controversial study showing that crime increased in Los Angeles neighborhoods where pot shops were forced to close, signalling that cannabis dispensaries might actually help lower rates of assaults and break-ins. (Never mind that the authors of the study – Rand Corp. – later removed it from their website for “further review” under mounting pressure from marijuana opponents).
Then came a report in early winter by two university economics professors claiming that medical marijuana laws could possibly help reduce traffic fatalities, highlighting data from states with cannabis regulations. In January of this year, the same professors released another report that found a 5% decrease in suicide rates in states with medical marijuana laws.
Now, we have yet another positive study for medical cannabis. The pro-pot group NORML is touting new data published on the Annals of Epidemiology website claiming that the limited use of medical pot by registered patients in states with MMJ laws “has little to no causal effect on broader marijuana use.”
The study, spearheaded by researchers at McGill University in Montreal, incorporates U.S. estimates on pot use from 2002 through 2009 in various states and then employs simulations and regression models to determine the impact of medical marijuana laws.
The report also found that marijuana use by teens and youth might actually decrease once a state enacts medical pot laws.
Regardless of whether or not there’s a decrease among that high-risk group, the estimates “suggest little detectable effects of passing medical marijuana laws on marijuana use or perceived riskiness of use among adolescents or adults,” according to the text of the study.
NORML says the results fly in the face of the government’s dire warnings about medical cannabis.
“The findings are in direct conflict with public statements made by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, who in recent years has frequently alleged that the passage of medical cannabis laws is directly responsible for higher levels of self-reported marijuana consumption among U.S. teenagers,” Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director, wrote in a weekly media advisory.
The recent spate of reports on medical marijuana are all controversial. Individuals against cannabis will no doubt find ways to poke holes in them, just as pot advocates criticize studies that shed a negative light on medical cannabis and marijuana in general. The good news for the MMJ industry is that all of the new studies were conducted by independent researchers, most of them tied to universities. This helps lend credibility to the results. At the same time, there’s been a noticeable absence of studies over the past year concluding that medical marijuana laws are harmful.
Put it all together, and it’s one of the few victories for the medical pot industry in recent times.