As more states begin the process of marijuana legalization, the 'public health vacuum' surrounding marijuana use gets smaller and smaller. Although studies that seek to empiricize the impact of marijuana on the lungs, on the pregnant body, and on long term health are still ongoing, anecdotal evidence — and other studies — suggest that marijuana use is not nearly as detrimental to our health as we once feared.
In fact, marijuana use comes with an inarguable range of health benefits! In celebration of 4/20, here are six ways in which smoking weed is good for your health and America's:
1. It's not just for getting high.
CBD, or cannbidiol, is a compound in cannabis that doesn't make you high. In a recent study of Epidiolex, an epilepsy medication derived from CBD, seizures in patients from ages 2 to 26 decreased by 54% after using CBD. The FDA has approved the use of Epidiolex (and other CBD derivatives) at epilepsy centers for 'compassionate use.' Studies of CBD as a treatment for various cancers are also ongoing; according to this study, CBD may 'turn off' the gene involved in the spread of breast cancer.
However, CBD isn't only used for the treatment of epilepsy and cancer. Evidence suggests CBD can also be used for pain relief, anxiety relief, and as a digestive aid. It's sold online in edibles, topical oils, and even in water bottles!
2. Marijuana use undermines big pharma and alcohol abuse.
According to scientists Ashley and David Bradford, 'the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly' in states that had legalized the usage of medical marijuana. In 2013, states that legalized marijuana reduced Medicare spending by 165.2 million.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2016, Amanda Reiman, who manages issues with marijuana law at the Drug Policy Alliance, a drug reform advocacy group, noted that the big pharma industry is a notorious (and shady) opposer of legalized marijuana. For example, the makers of OxyContin and Vicodin are some of the largest contributors to the Anti-Drug Coalition of America.
The motivation? Reiman says, 'Research conducted by myself and others shows that medical cannabis patients are substituting cannabis for pharmaceuticals at a very high rate, and for alcohol at a pretty high rate as well.' Given America's opioid epidemic, it's pretty great news that individuals in need of pain relief can turn to cannabis instead. While overdose deaths caused by prescription opioids have quadruped since 1999 (along with sales of prescription opioids), it's common knowledge that no one has ever overdosed from smoking weed.
3. It improves sexual performance in men, and heightens sexual pleasure for women.
According to surveys like this one from the '70s, men have historically reported that marijuana use increases their sexual stamina. Although the survey notes that sex might just seem longer when you're high, and that the positive impact of weed on sex is also 'dose- and setting-dependent,' subjective reports are reports nonetheless.
Now stoners and businesspeople alike are finding a market at the intersection of weed and sex.
After a night of particularly good sex while stoned, entrepreneur Karyn Wagner set out to design a strain of marijuana specifically intended to increase female sexual pleasure. While most typical marijuana strains have about 18-20% THC, Wagner's strain, Sexxpot, has only 14%. Wagner theorizes that 'the lower THC will be just enough to elevate all your senses. At the same time, it'll help you be calm, relaxed, and less inhibited.'
Like Wagner's Sexxpot, FORIA Pleasure is a 'natural sensual enhancement oil' designed by women for women. It blends coconut oil with lab-safe cannabis oil, and was named the 'Sex Product of the Year' by GQ almost as soon as it was released.
4. The only proven impact of long-term marijuana use? Gum disease.
That's right. When researchers at Duke University conducted a study that sought to link long-term marijuana use and the health problems associated with cigarette smoking, they found a high prevalence of gum disease among 30-somethings who had smoked weed for 15 to 20 years. That's the same gum disease you might get from forgetting to floss.
Researchers found no statistically significant evidence that linked marijuana use to lung and cardiovascular issues.
5. It might reverse the carcinogenic effects of tobacco.
We know that weed itself helps stop the spread of cancer in skin tissues by inhibiting the expression of gene ID-1. Now, studies show that the practice of smoking it might help increase lung capacity, and thus help reverse the carcinogenic effects of tobacco.
According to this study from 2012, 'marijuana does not impair lung function and can even increase lung capacity.' While tobacco users lose lung function linearly over time, marijuana smokers show an increase over time in lung capacity. While this might be caused by therapeutic chemicals in cannabis, it might also be because the process of smoking weed requires you to take deep, expansive breaths. Like yoga!
6. It eases anxiety.
According to researchers at Vanderbilt University, there are cannabinoid receptors in the amygdala, or the part of the brain used to regulate anxiety and control our fight or flight response. Sachin Patel, an M.D., Ph. D, and professor of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt, states, 'The discovery may help explain why marijuana users say they take the drug mainly to reduce anxiety.'
In short, smoking weed can treat major and minor ailments, protect against dependency on more dangerous drugs, heighten female sexual pleasure (while encouraging female entrepreneurs!), increase lung capacity, and reduce both mental and physical anxiety symptoms. That's pretty dope.
Top photo: Tumblr.com/mzlrod
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Olivia Loperfido is an English and psychology major at New York University's College of Arts and Sciences, and the junior editor of NYU's Mercer Street (2017-'18). She enjoys spending time with her dogs and tortoise, watching RuPaul's Drag Race, and contacting her state representatives. Follow her on Instagram here and contact her via email here.