While lawmakers and politicians have been coming out in droves to endorse the legalization of medical and even recreational marijuana, the medical establishment hasn’t been as supportive. But the tide could be turning: The American Journal of Public Health has just published a study suggesting that states that legalize medical marijuana can expect a reduction in suicide rates.
A team of economists looked at state-by-state statistics on suicide rates over a 17-year period, from 1990 to 2007, comparing data from states that voted to legalize medical marijuana with those that kept it criminalized. According to their calculations, in the three years following legalization, the suicide rate dropped, on average, 10.8 percent among men in their 20s and 9.8 percent for men in their 30s.
“The negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young men is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana can be used to cope with stressful life events,” wrote the authors.
The link was less clear for women—but the authors say they weren't surprised.
"Males and females respond differently to policies and substances," said Daniel Rees, an economist at the University of Colorado, Denver, who co-authored the paper. "Young adult males are the ones who really seem to respond to legalization of medical marijuana. There’s evidence that they respond by drinking less. You see a decline in traffic fatalities, especially alcohol-related ones."