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Smoking Weed Makes You Less Paranoid About the Health Risks of Smoking Weed

According to a new study, the states with the highest rate of marijuana use also had the highest rates of people believing that smoking weed has no adverse health risks.
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A new study shows that marijuana use varies greatly across the US, even within each state, and that there's a strong correlation between smoking weed and believing that weed isn't really all that bad for you.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) looked at data collected from 204,000 people ages 12 and older from the years 2012 to 2014. Overall they found an annual average of 20.3 million people had used marijuana in the last month, which translates to about 7.73 percent of US population of people in that age group.


Read more: What Happens When You Drink an Entire Bottle of Weed Lube

Meanwhile, 28.5 percent of people in the same age demographic reported believing there to be a "great risk of harm" involved with monthly marijuana smoking. According to Art Hughes, a mathematical statistician at the SAMHSA Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, this refers specifically to the risk of "physical harm" caused by smoking pot.

These statistics are national averages, but among the regions of the US and different census regions within each state, the numbers show great variation in both the usage and perceived risk of marijuana. Marijuana use was, on average, higher in the West (9.7 percent) and the Northeast (8.36 percent) of the US, while it was much lower in the South (6.43 percent).

Within many states, different regions showed varying levels of marijuana use as well. For example, while San Francisco's percentage of users was the highest in the US—at 15.46 percent—other regions within California had only a 6.2 to 8.15 percentage. Other states that contained high-usage regions included Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, as well as Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.

The lowest percentage of marijuana use was in a census region in southern Texas, where only 3.93 percent of residents had used the drug in the last month. In addition to southern Texas, people were smoking the least weed in Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Dakota, Iowa, Utah, and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, perception of risk associated with marijuana smoking was lowest in the Northeast and highest in the South. In fact, the 16 regions that showed the highest belief of marijuana risk were all in the Southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas, Florida, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

These findings show that there's a strong correlation between using marijuana and believing that doing so is not physically risky, and vice versa. "The perceived risk of harm is a strong predictor of marijuana use," says Hughes.

However, the study leaves many questions unanswered: The data didn't account for how access to marijuana and drug safety education may play a role in the variations among different regions in the US. Also, because the data assessed perceived risk of monthly marijuana smoking specifically, it's unclear how people across the US might perceive the riskiness of edibles or vaping the drug. After all, there is evidence that vaping, despite its social stigma, might be better for your health than hitting the pipe.