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Regular cannabis consumption has no negative impact on public health – study

Regular consumers reported fewer health issues and used less prescription medications.

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Spain has the third highest rate of cannabis consumption in Europe. Photo by Rodnae Productions.

A new study from researchers in Spain found no decline in the health of regular cannabis consumers when compared to the general population.

The paper, published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, assessed the impact of regular cannabis consumption on public health and compared the data to the general population in Spain for the first time. 

Spain has the third highest rate of cannabis consumption in Europe (3.7% of the population). While people can access cannabis via the cannabis social club (CSCs) model, the plant remains federally illegal throughout Spain. 

Researchers from the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service (ICEERS) and the Department of Biological & Health Psychology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, developed a specific questionnaire based on the Catalan Public Health Survey, that looked at 419 regular cannabis users in the Catalonia region of Spain.

Researchers collected information from 2019 to 2022 on survey participants looking at sociodemographic data, general and mental health, lifestyle, social support, and the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances.

The study, partially funded by Fundación Canna, found that the overall health of regular cannabis consumers is comparable to or better than the general population.

Better health and less prescription medications

Cannabis users demonstrated better scores on positive health perception and body mass index and reported having fewer issues with cholesterol, blood pressure, chronic diseases, physical limitations, and depression (7.1% of cannabis users had depression compared to 20.5% of the general population). 

Cannabis users reported consuming half the amount of alcohol as the general population. Researchers also found that about 30% of the sample was able to stop taking prescription medications while using cannabis.

Cannabis users had lower scores than the general population when it came to sleep indicators, suggesting that they have more issues with sleep. However, existing evidence also points to better sleep quality in medical cannabis users. Therefore the user profile or the ways in which the plant is utilised are variables that would determine the overall effects of cannabis.

While the differences in health indicators outlined by the study cannot be attributed solely to cannabis, those behind the research say it suggests that regular users do not experience relevant harmful impacts on their overall health. 

The authors of the paper suggest including cannabis-related items in national health surveys to provide valuable data to support public debates regarding its regulation.

José Carlos Bouso, the study’s principal investigator, commented: “Cannabis use is stigmatised because the plant is considered harmful to public health, but there has never been a real study on its impact based on public health indicators. This is the first time such a study has been done. The results are intended to help guide cannabis policy decisions on regulation.”

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister title and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email sarah@prohibitionpartners.com / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag

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