Does cannabis legalization make people healthier?

cannabis legalization health impact

Cannabis and wellness have long been thought to go hand in hand, and recent research may support that claim. Leafwell released data ranking the states by most physically and mentally healthy.

What wasn’t mentioned in that list is legal cannabis, but the research revealed this may come into play. The top nine states have adult use or pending adult-use regulations, and the 10th has medical access.

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The study was conducted by Leafwell, a medical cannabis technology platform that connects patients and medical professionals. Data scientists at the tech company are medical doctors who created an overall health score. The average physical activity, frequency of mental distress, and life expectancy of the population of each state were ranked out of 100 using data from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

“As we delve into the intricacies of each state’s health metrics, it becomes evident that factors such as access to exercise opportunities, median household income, and mental health resources play pivotal roles in shaping the well-being of communities,.” said Mitchell L. Doucette, Ph.D., M.S., director of research at Leafwell, , in a statement obtained by GreenState.

Top states for mental and physical well-being

  1. Hawaii 91.4
  2. Massachusetts 83
  3. New Jersey 80.1
  4. California 79.5
  5. Colorado 79.4
  6. Washington 75
  7. Connecticut 75
  8. Maryland 74.8
  9. Minnesota 73
  10. Utah 71.4

Recreational legalization is pending in Hawaii, with two bills advancing through the Senate. Still, the island showed the highest average life expectancy at 82, with an average of under four days a month with poor mental health.

According to the report, the life expectancy averages 80 years in Massachusetts; and they’re physically active. The household income is also 30 percent above the national average at $89,600–which could speak to the time and money that goes into gyms, workout classes, and gear.

In New Jersey, 94 percent of the seven million residents have convenient access to parks and recreation facilities. As for California, the state in fourth place, 95 percent of the population lives near “exercise opportunities,” and the average person lives to be around 80 years old.

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“By highlighting the positive attributes of states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, and others in the top rankings, this data aims to inspire conversations and initiatives that prioritize comprehensive approaches to improve the quality of life for residents nationwide,” Doucette explained.

Does cannabis legalization make people healthier?

Leafwell has also highlighted that states with proximity to cannabis, for whatever reason, tend to rank higher in both mental and physical well-being. Now, rule number one is that correlation does not imply causation. This connection between health and legal weed could speak to the voting population. Voters might sways towards policy like cannabis legalization as well as public greenways for exercise and liveable wages with out there being a connection.

Still, though, perhaps this time the correlation is worth exploring. If the healthiest states also have access to weed, then perhaps cannabis consumption has the potential to be a healthy habit–only more research will tell.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.