Although marijuana is famous for causing the munchies, it turns out that despite all the snacking, there isn't much need for concern about weight gain. According to science, in fact, smoking marijuana might cause people to lose weight. Which is unexpected, but there is an explanation.
According to a new study by researchers from San Diego State University and Cornell, states in which laws were passed permitting medical marijuana, there was a decline in obesity in the state. In fact, legalizing medical marijuana is associated with a 2-6 percent decrease in the probability. And places that adopted medical marijuana also saw a decline of $58 to $115 in per-person costs related to obesity.
"These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that MMLs [medical marijuana laws] may be more likely to induce marijuana use for health-related reasons among older individuals," the researchers write in the paper, "and cause substitution toward lower-calorie recreational 'highs' among younger individuals."
In other words, for young people, using marijuana means people are less likely to use other recreational substances like alcohol, which are much higher in calories. Apparently even higher than the calorie count associated with munchies, which sadly isn't surprising — the calorie content in most alcoholic beverages is enough to make you cry.
Of course, there have also been studies that suggest marijuana is associated with weight gain, as well. In one from earlier this year, researchers found that people who smoked marijuana were more likely to gain weight than people who smoked regular cigarettes, and that the more marijuana they smoked, the more likely they were to gain weight. So nothing is conclusive.
Either way, however, it does seem that there are lots of potential positive health effects from marijuana use that are worthy of researchers' attention. While not all weight gain threatens a person's health, it is true that obesity is correlated with a higher risk of certain diseases, depending on a variety of factors. And so if marijuana indeed reduces the risk of obesity, as suggested in this latest study, that's certainly worth looking into. And now that the U.S. is slowly relaxing its policy on marijuana in many states, researchers will hopefully have a greater opportunity to do just that.