Could Legal Marijuana Help Fight Obesity?

By May Wilkerson 12/07/15

Almost 80 million people in the United States are obese.

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Legalizing marijuana could be an unlikely tool in helping reduce obesity, according to a new study from Cornell University and San Diego State. In states where pot has been legalized for medical use, researchers found the probability of obesity dropped by 2-6%.

The researchers attributed this drop to a decrease in drinking, as more people replaced alcohol with marijuana. Alcohol is not only packed with calories, but it can lower people’s inhibitions, making them more likely to reach for unhealthy snacks like pizza.

Another contributing factor is a link between medical marijuana and increased mobility among older patients. By helping older people manage aches and pains associated with aging, medical marijuana may allow them to be more active, which can help them maintain their weight.

“These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that medical marijuana laws may be more likely to induce marijuana use for health-related reasons among older individuals, and cause substitution toward lower-calorie recreational ‘highs’ among younger individuals,” the researchers wrote.

More than a third of American adults, or 78.6 million people, are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity can lead to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and various forms of cancer, costing the United States approximately $147 billion in 2008.

Researchers estimate that legalizing marijuana could reduce the annual cost of obesity-related medical costs by $58 -$115 per person.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.