The enactment of state medical marijuana laws is associated with reduced instances of suicide, according to a discussion paper published recently by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany. Researchers at Montana State University, the University of Colorado, and San Diego State University assessed rates of suicide in the years before and after the passage of medical marijuana laws. Authors of the discussion paper, entitled "High on Life: Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide," found:
Using state-level data for the period 1990 through 2007, we estimate the effect of legalizing medical marijuana on suicide rates. Our results suggest that the passage of a medical marijuana law is associated with an almost 5 percent reduction in the total suicide rate, an 11 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 20- through 29-year-old males, and a 9 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 30- through 39-year-old males.
Estimates of the relationship between legalization and female suicides were less precise. But the authors theorized that the regulated availability of cannabis may "lead to an improvement in the psychological well-being of young adult males, an improvement that is reflected in fewer suicides." They further speculated, "The strong association between alcohol consumption and suicide-related outcomes found by previous researchers raises the possibility that medical marijuana laws reduce the risk of suicide by decreasing alcohol consumption."
They concluded: "Policymakers weighing the pros and cons of legalization should consider the possibility that medical marijuana laws may lead to fewer suicides among young adult males."
The same team of researchers carried out last year's study finding a decline in traffic fatalities in states that have legalized medical marijuana. (NORML blog, Feb. 21; Legalization Nation, Feb. 7)
Graphic by Herbal Remedies