What The Data Shows About Medical Marijuanas Health Benefits

January 12, 2024

After November 8, 20% of Americans now live in states that have voted to allow recreational marijuana use. Many states are voting for initiatives that make it legal for adults to consume cannabis. Votes are still being counted, but it looks like Maine will most likely join that group. And several states joined the 25 that already allow for medical use of marijuana, the most notable addition soon to be North Carolina. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) are expected to allow doctors to recommend cannabis for those with a qualifying medical condition.


In 2014, the North Carolina legislature signed House Bill 1220, the Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act into law. It was amended in 2015 (see House Bill 766). The purpose of this act is to permit the use of hemp extract as an alternative treatment for children with intractable epilepsy.


Critics of legalization claim that legalization is bad for public health. “When states legalize recreational marijuana, fatalities increase and the lives of children and teenagers are put at stake, president and CEO of Spectrum Health Systems, a substance abuse and mental health treatment provider. But the data on how both recreational and medical legalization of marijuana tells a different story.


It’s still early as marijuana hasn’t been legal for long, even in these states, but so far legalization hasn’t had a negative impact on public health, according to a report recently published by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). That report and other recent studies help show how marijuana legalization for medical or recreational purposes in these states has changed things.


Nationally, the number of students who used marijuana in the past 30 days leveled out in 2010 after rising for several years, according to the DPA report, rep says that youth use marijuana at higher rates than any other kids in the country.

A 2015 article in the New England Journal of Medicine states that legalizing medical marijuana doesn’t seem to have increased the prevalence of youth usage. While the percentage of kids who described marijuana as “highly risky” decreased after legalization, the percentage of students who reported ever trying cannabis decreased slightly as well.


There’s some debate about the effect that cannabis legalization has had on traffic deaths. Rep says that data from many states shows that an increased percentage of the people involved in traffic fatalities have had marijuana in their systems since legalization.


However, traffic death rates since legalization have not increased in other states and are lower than the national average, according to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data analyzed in the DPA report. At the same time, DUI rates seem to have decreased since legalization, potentially an overall benefit, since the risks of driving under the influence of alcohol are much more obvious than the risks of driving under the influence of cannabis (people who combine the substances perform the worst on driving tests, however).


The DPA report says that more people may test positive for cannabis now since officials are now more likely to test for it in the first place. Also, since people can test positive for cannabis long after they’ve stopped feeling the effects, the report says the “data only illuminate that tested drivers consumed cannabis hours, days, or weeks prior to the test” — not that cannabis was involved.


As Stat News pointed out in another story, there are several studies that show that states that allow medical marijuana have fewer opioid deaths. This effect seems to stack over time, with states who pass these laws seeing a “20 percent lower rate of opioid deaths in the laws’ first year, 24 percent in the third, and 33 percent in the sixth.”


The DPA report notes that “by no longer arresting and prosecuting possession and other low-level marijuana offenses, states are saving hundreds of millions of dollars,” based on the fact that $200 million was spent enforcing marijuana laws. Arrest rates in these states for marijuana offenses have plummeted (you can still be arrested for certain offenses), though the report notes that people of color are still twice as likely to be arrested despite using marijuana at similar rates to white people.


Financially, the DPA report says taxing and selling marijuana has been “overwhelmingly successful in generating revenue,” with revenues exceeding projections in both states.


There are still plenty of questions about how legalized marijuana will affect states in the future. Some people have expressed concerns that powerful THC-loaded varieties available today could potentially have more of an impact than we know, especially if used by young people with developing brains. On the other hand, if people are using marijuana instead of more dangerous substances like alcohol, there could be some benefit to public health there, though so far, it’s hard to say whether legalization makes people drink more or less.


Now, we’ll be able to see the effects in several additional states. Hopefully, that will encourage study into marijuana’s effects, something that scientists say is still incredibly difficult to research because of federal regulations. In the meantime, the DPA report argues that the lessons from states like North Carolina indicate that the public health effects on medical marijuana are very positive.


Contact All Natural Health Certifications today to learn more about medical marijuana treatment.