Medical cannabis laws associated with fewer suicides

“Policymakers weighing the pros and cons of legalization should consider… that (these) laws may lead to fewer suicides among young adult males”

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world – especially for young males. We also have the highest rate of cannabis arrests in the world, with police spending 330,000 hours per year chasing pot heads.

New research has shown that in the USA the enactment of statewide laws allowing for the limited use of cannabis therapeutically is associated with reduced instances of suicide.

In a discussion paper published in January by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany, researchers at Montana State University, the University of Colorado, and San Diego State University assessed rates of suicide in the years before and after the passage of statewide medical marijuana laws.

Authors found, “The total suicide rate falls smoothly during the pre-legalization period in both MML (medical marijuana law) and non-MML states. However, beginning in year zero, the trends diverge: the suicide rate in MML states continues to fall, while the suicide rate in states that never legalized medical marijuana begins to climb gradually.”

They reported that this downward trend in suicides in states post-legalisation was especially pronounced in males. “Our results suggest that the passage of a medical marijuana law is associated with an almost 5 percent reduction in the total suicide rate, an 11 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 20- through 29-year-old males, and a 9 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 30- through 39-year-old males,” they determined.

Authors theorized that the limited legalisation of cannabis may “lead to an improvement in the psychological well-being of young adult males, an improvement that is reflected in fewer suicides.” They further speculated, “The strong association between alcohol consumption and suicide-related outcomes found by previous researchers raises the possibility that medical marijuana laws reduce the risk of suicide by decreasing alcohol consumption.”

They concluded: “Policymakers weighing the pros and cons of legalization should consider the possibility that medical marijuana laws may lead to fewer suicides among young adult males.”

Full text of the discussion paper, “High on Life: Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide,” is available online at: http://ftp.iza.org/dp6280.pdf.