Where dagga is legal, people are likely to believe its benefits

People in 'legal' states are more likely to believe in the benefits of dagga.
People in 'legal' states are more likely to believe in the benefits of dagga.

If you live where recreational marijuana is legal, you're more likely to think that it offers health benefits, a new study finds.

People think those benefits include relieving pain, anxiety and depression, researchers say.

Worrisome findings

"Our results show that residents of states where marijuana has been legalised for recreational use have an overall more favourable view towards potential benefits of marijuana use and were more likely to attribute benefits to marijuana use that are not supported by evidence," researcher Dr Salomeh Keyhani and colleagues recently wrote in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Keyhani is a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

These findings are worrisome because the cannabis industry is growing fast and is aggressively marketing new products, the researchers said.

For the study, Keyhani's team asked roughly 9 000 adults about their beliefs and opinions of marijuana. The survey included people in states where pot is legal for recreational use; legal for medical use, or illegal.

Most respondents in states where pot is legal think it helps manage pain. That includes 73% in "recreationally legal" states; 67% in "medically legal" states; and 63% in states where pot remains illegal.

There's scant evidence, however, to support use of marijuana for pain relief, and none to show it can help treat anxiety or depression, the researchers said. In fact, they added, it may interfere with management of anxiety and depression.

Legal in 33 states

Where recreational pot is legal, people are more likely to consider smoking it safer than tobacco, but researchers said that, too, is not supported by evidence.

People in all states said marijuana can be addictive. In states where recreational use is legal, people also think it carries other risks, including memory loss and decreased intelligence and energy.

About 20% of respondents in recreationally legal states said they had used pot, compared with 15% in medically legal states and 12% in states where it's illegal.

Marijuana is legal for recreational or medical use in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Legalisation has brought rapid increases in recreational use, as well as marijuana use disorders, Keyhani and her colleagues said.

"The favourable views of residents in recreationally legal states are cause for concern, given the tide of commercialisation, growing number of unstudied high-potency products, and the favorable media coverage promoting use," they concluded.

Image credit: iStock

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