Each year, marijuana aficionados celebrate April 20 (4/20) as the unofficial holiday of weed.
In the United States, marijuana is a mainstream social issue as advocates of legalizing weed argue it is safer than alcohol while opponents make the case that marijuana is a gateway drug that does the body harm. How safe is marijuana? The jury is still out. While there is research suggesting weed is bad for you, there are also studies which point to health benefit.
Below are 20 health benefits of consuming marijuana:
1. Weight Loss: The Atlantic recently reported a study which found that people who smoke pot are skinnier. The researchers at the University of Nebraska, the Harvard School of Public Health, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center analyzed data to find that current pot smokers had a smaller waist circumference than those who had never used marijuana. While this may seem counterintuitive — pot smokers reportedly consume an extra 600 calories a day from "the munchies" — the proof lies in the numbers. And yes, the study took into account the extraneous variables such as age, sex, tobacco, alcohol use and physical activity levels.
2. Lung Health: Since marijuana is often smoked, a common belief is that it is not good for your lungs. But a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that weed increases lung capacity and did not effect lung function.
3. Diabetes: Scientists from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found a correlation between Type 2 diabetes and marijuana. One of the most common risk factors for diabetes is insulin resistance and the researchers found that the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may help the body take in insulin. The study, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in the latest issue of "The American Journal of Medicine," found that marijuana users had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels and 17 percent lower insulin-resistance levels. That said, only current smokers experienced the positive effects, implying that the resistance occurred after immediate use.
4. Depression: A 2005 study published by USC and SUNY Albany researchers found that "those who consume marijuana occasionally or even daily have lower levels of depressive symptoms than those who have never tried marijuana."
5. Anxiety and ADHD: The aforementioned study from USC and SUNY Albany also found evidence suggesting that in small doses, weed may relieve anxiety and symptoms of ADHD. The findings about anxiety were replicated in 2010, when researchers from Harvard Medical School found that marijuana acts as a sedative and can improve the consumer's mood by reducing anxiety.
6. Glaucoma: Those suffering from glaucoma can prevent blindness by taking marijuana orally, intravenously or by inhaling. How? Marijuana decreases the pressure inside the eye, according to research. In fact, the National Eye Institute states: "Studies in the early 1970s showed that marijuana, when smoked, lowered intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with normal pressure and those with glaucoma."
7. Epileptic Seizures and Tourette's: In 2012, a British study from the University of Reading found that marijuana can help those suffering from epilepsy -- a condition that afflicts one percent of the world -- as THC has anti-convulsant properties. The researchers determined that it could potentially lead to an effective treatment with no side effects. Researchers have also found that marijuana helps those suffering from Tourette's as well.
8. AIDS: More recently, scientists found that THC might have a helpful function: stopping the spread of HIV in monkeys. According to researchers, monkeys that were treated with high THC doses on a daily basis had more healthy cells than those who did not. While these findings are preliminary, and have not been observed in humans, they are promising.
9. Cancer: It's not news that marijuana helps cancer patients when they undergo chemotherapy, but a 2012 study found that marijuana can play a role in curing aggressive cancer. Or rather, a marijuana compound "can stop metastasis in some kinds of aggressive cancer." This wasn't the first study of its kind, as researchers in the U.K. have successfully killed cancer cells in leukemia patients using marijuana. How does it work? According to the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, marijuana turns off the gene and in turn, stops cancer.
10. Migraines: Does a blunt a day take the migraines away? Marijuana has anti-inflammatory properties that assist in pain relief. In fact, the effects are said to be "several hundred times more powerful than that of aspirin." Doctors in California have treated more than 300,000 migraine cases with medical marijuana. has shown to be effective in treating a host of illnesses and conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and migraines.
11. Arthritis: As mentioned above, marijuana is a potent pain killer and it even helps with rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. In 2011, researchers announced that patients with rheumatoid arthritis reported less pain, more sleep, and reduced inflammation when taking marijuana.
12. Alzheimer's Disease: A 2006 study, published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, found that marijuana (specifically, THC) has the ability to block an enzyme that is responsible for creating the amyloid plaque--what kills brain cells in patients of Alzheimer's. The study also found that marijuana prevents "protein clumps that can inhibit cognition and memory."
13. Opiate Addiction: Opiates have addictive qualities that are far more damaging than marijuana and as such, cannabis can be used as an effective remedy to reduce dependence on opiate-based medication.
14. Neurological Damage: There is research suggesting that marijuana has neuroprotective qualities. What does this mean? Consuming marijuana can limit neurological damage after a stroke or trauma. Rumor has it that the NFL may introduce marijuana to combat concussions in athletes.
15. Hepatitis C: The European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that those who smoked marijuana daily were more likely to complete their Hepatitis C therapy--the medications have severe side effects which often causes a patient to stop their treatment regimen. What's more, marijuana supposedly makes the medication more effective, as those who take it in conjunction with their treatment have no sign of the virus in their body.
16. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: THC-like compounds made by the body increase the permeability of the intestines, allowing bacteria in. A 2010 study, published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, found the THC in marijuana blocks the THC-like compounds made in the body, which allow bacteria into your body by increasing the permeability of the intestines.
17. Multiple Sclerosis: The THC in pot binds to receptors in the nerves and muscles to relieve pain. Marijuana's pain relieving ability makes it beneficial to patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, as the THC binds to receptors in the nerves and muscles to alleviate pain. In a 30 people study, Jody Corey-Bloom found that smoking marijuana reduced pain in multiple sclerosis patients.
18. Bipolar Disorder: A study found that those with bipolar disorder can benefit from ingesting pot. According to the research, those with bipolar I disorder who smoked pot showed improvement in areas such as processing speed, attention, and working memory.
19. Creativity: There was often a stigma that marijuana makes you stupid but researchers have since found that the stereotype was based on correlational evidence, instead of cause and effect. In fact, scientists have found that those who smoke tend to be more creative.
20. Verbal Skills: Researchers have also found that marijuana increases "verbal fluency" amongst users.