Medical Marijuana Laws Result in 5% Fewer Suicides

The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) is back with another report showing more benefits for the states that have legalized medical marijuana . IZA reported in November in what Toke of the Town’s Steve Elliot called a “groundbreaking new study” that medical marijuana laws have resulted in a nearly nine percent drop in traffic deaths and a five percent reduction in beer sales in those states.

The private research institute has recently published a new report, this one cleverly titled “High on Life? Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide,” in which IZA explores the conflicting arguments used by proponents for, and in opposition of, medical marijuana. The author writes that “proponents argue that marijuana can be an effective treatment for bipolarism, depression, and other mood disorders,” while “opponents argue that the negative effects of marijuana are long-lasting and users are at risk of suffering from decreased psychological well-being later in life.” We are all familiar with the hysteria surrounding cannabis, and are often told use will trigger or enhance depression, anxiety, psychosis and schizophrenia.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and as this study’s authors write “while the majority of people who suffer from mental illness do not commit suicide, over 90 percent of those who do commit suicide have a diagnosable mental or substance use disorder.” IZA also reports that the “relationship between marijuana use and suicide-related outcomes has been studied extensively,” but those results are sometimes convoluted by hard to determine factors and users self-medicating. “Most studies had not adequately addressed the problem of reverse causation” they wrote, and more simply put by Steve Elliot “it appears that existing studies haven’t sufficiently examined the possibility that any association between cannabis and suicide is due to suicidally depressed people self-medicating with marijuana. IZA’s study goes on to say “there have been no previous attempts to estimate the effect of medical marijuana laws on completed suicides.”

The Institute used state-level data from 1990-2007, and found that passing a medical marijuana law was associated with an almost five percent decrease in the amount of suicides committed. Among males ages 20-29 suicide rates dropped eleven percent, and the rates for males ages 30-39 fell nine percent following passage of medical marijuana laws. The authors note the previous study of IZA’s which found a reduction in beer sales and traffic deaths as a result of medical marijuana laws, writing “there is a strong association between alcohol consumption and suicide-related outcomes,” and perhaps this was associated with the declining suicide rates.

The authors of the study write that “the negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young adult males is consistent with the argument that marijuana can be used to cope with such shocks” that might alternatively lead someone taking their own life. It leads to an improvement in psychological well-being, and that’s reflected in fewer suicides. Regulating your endocannabinoid system is vital to life, and it is more clear with each study coming forward that individuals and communities are benefiting from safe access to cannabis.


The Institute for the Study of Labor’s report can be read or downloaded at:

Steve Elliot’s Toke of the Town article is available at:

Regarding Alcohol Sales and Traffic Deaths:

News Nug, December 1, 2011


2 Responses to “Medical Marijuana Laws Result in 5% Fewer Suicides”

  1. Lobby WV delegates for MedMJ, Contact info here: Read more about MedMJ in West Virginia at CofA9 reporting from Appalachia


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