Another Health Benefit Of Marijuana: Lowering Use Of Alcohol

Yet another weapon has been added to the arsenal of arguments for those who favor the legalization of marijuana.

A recent study shows that legalizing marijuana can lead to less consumption of alcohol. And with most healthcare professionals agreeing that alcohol is worse for people than marijuana, it’s an added health benefit for legalizing cannabis.

The impact of legal marijuana on alcohol sales seems substantial. A paper recently released by the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University shows alcohol sales dropped 13 percent in U.S. counties where medical marijuana is legal.

It’s not a small sample. Researchers looked at sales data from grocery stores, convenience stores, drug stores and “mass distribution” stores between 2006 and 2015.

“We find that marijuana and alcohol are strong substitutes,” the report stated, as opposed to marijuana being complimentary to alcohol use, as some critics fear.

Canadian Consumption

In Canada, a recent study showed how fast marijuana consumption has ramped up. Research done by the Canadian government’s Bureau of Statistics found that Canadians spent almost as much on cannabis as they did on wine in 2015.

Here are some of the report’s findings.

  • There are about 4.9 million cannabis consumers in Canada, a number that includes those who use medical and recreational marijuana
  • The amount spent in Canada on cannabis in 2015 ranged between $5 billion and $6.2 billion
  • The average age of marijuana users has gotten older, with two-thirds of cannabis consumers over the age of 25

With Canada expected to legalize recreational marijuana across the nation in 2018, those numbers are only expected to increase.

The Health Benefit

Is marijuana actually safer than alcohol? Studies continue into this much-debated area, but research seems to point to cannabis as being the less dangerous of the two.

Here are some findings from studies into the issue.

  • A 2012 study published in Scientific American found that 15 percent of those surveyed were addicted to alcohol, while only 9 percent were addicted to cannabis
  • The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention found that alcohol contributed to 30,722 deaths in 2014, while marijuana had no documented cases of overdose.
  • Alcohol is involved in 40 percent of violent crimes, according to a study from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
  • Meanwhile, married couples who partake of marijuana were less likely to commit violent acts against one another.
  • A comprehensive study in the United Kingdom found alcohol as the most harmful drug, followed by crack cocaine and heroin. Marijuana was down the list at eight.

Expect research to continue around the health benefit of this area. But clearly the trend across many scientific studies is that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. And with numbers showing the impact of marijuana on alcohol sales, it’s another potential benefit of legalizing marijuana.

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