Silent Bob. The Dude. Every character Seth Rogen has played since Knocked Up.
The archetypical stoner is pudgy, lazy and more likely to say yes to trail mix than a trail run. But those pesky fact things, well, they may suggest something different.
The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics just studied two cohorts from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, analyzing some 14,000 people ages 18-24 over a six-year period. One group smoked weed daily. The other didn’t. They accounted for socioeconomics, physical activity, drinking and diet.
The somewhat astonishing result: the weed smokers had a lower mean Body Mass Index. Much lower, in fact. Male weed smokers were 2.7% lower than non-smokers, and females showed an even greater discrepancy, at 3.0%.
The findings support a slew of other, earlier studies: a 2001 study by the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Study indicated that although marijuana users consume more calories, they have a lower BMI than non-users. A study by Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience concluded that marijuana is helpful for weight gain in chemotherapy patients, but in normal people it’s ineffectual. And a 2015 study in the Annals of Epidemiology found that marijuana users have lower insulin resistance, lower BMIs and are typically thinner.
Caveat emptor: correlation doesn’t equal causation — so don’t break out the bong just yet (unless you live in a legal state, then, by all means, do).
But it highlights that we should study marijuana more closely for its health benefits before jumping to conclusions like the one on the first line of this article. Acknowledging the plant's numerous health benefits is a step towards having it reclassified from being a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the DEA. Said legal status currently puts weed on par with heroin and LSD, and renders it subject to the same penalties because it has no recognized medical use.
As the Washington Post reported, “the DEA says it cannot change the legal status of marijuana unless the FDA determines it has a medical use. The FDA cannot determine it has a medical use in part because of the highly restrictive legal status of the drug. It's a classic bureaucratic Catch-22.”
The key to full legalization will be normalizing a product that has been effectively demonized; it’s going to be a long process that’ll only be accelerated by studies like these and smart marketing that paints a clearer picture than whatever you took away from Pineapple Express.
Like The Dude, we can abide.