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SDSU Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Can Lead To Decline In Obesity

A sign at a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Monica is pictured in this undated photo.
Chuck Coker
A sign at a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Monica is pictured in this undated photo.
SDSU Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Can Lead To Decline In Obesity
Smoking pot may cause a case of the munchies. But San Diego researchers say, at the statewide level, medical marijuana may actually lead to weight loss.

Smoking pot may cause a case of the munchies. But San Diego researchers say, at the statewide level, medical marijuana may actually lead to weight loss.

In a recent study, researchers looked at statewide obesity trends between 1990 and 2012. They found that obesity declined in states that chose to legalize medical marijuana.

San Diego State University economics professor Joseph Sabia led the study. He and his colleagues offer a few explanations for this unexpected link.

They say medical marijuana may help older people lead a more active lifestyle by relieving the kind of pain that can prevent them from exercising.

And younger people in pot-friendly states may end up drinking less alcohol, preferring the low-calorie high provided by marijuana.

"The data seems to suggest that substitutions away from alcohol and increased exercise may swamp any 'munchies' effect," said Sabia. "So the net effect is a decline in obesity."

States with medical marijuana laws on the books saw a two to six percent dip in the probability of obesity, according to the study. Sabia said California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana, has seen one of the steepest declines all the states he studied.

Sabia also says medical marijuana's effect on obesity rates could lead to substantial medical cost savings in the range of more $58 to $115 per person annually.