Marijuana keeps becoming more and more acceptable in mainstream society, though the various risks and benefits of smoking pot are still debated. And now to add to the pile of new information scientists keep bringing us: Couples who smoke marijuana engage in less domestic violence, a new study out of the University at Buffalo says. Which isn't exactly shocking, but still could have major implications.
For this study, researchers followed 634 couples through their first nine years of marriage. About 22 percent of the women and 28 percent of the men reported using pot. According to the findings, rates of domestic violence were lower among couples where at least one partner smoked and lowest of all among couples who smoked together.
The researchers caution that they can't say for sure if there is a causal relationship here. As Dr. Kenneth Leonard from the university says, "Although this study supports the perspective that marijuana does not increase, and may decrease, aggressive conflict, we would like to see research replicating these findings." They also hope to conduct further research aimed at "examining day-to-day marijuana and alcohol use and the likelihood to intimate partner violence on the same day." In other words, it would be a lot easier to draw conclusions if we knew more about the exact dynamics of how pot functions in couples' relationships, rather than just a general idea that more pot and less violence are linked in some fashion.
Still, anyone who's been around a stoner won't be too surprised to hear that smoking pot might make people less likely to abuse their spouse. I have yet to meet an aggressive stoner. Which isn't to say they don't exist, but still.
Obviously, getting people to smoke more pot is not a viable solution to domestic violence, and I'm really, really hoping that no one decides to use these findings to dismiss how serious domestic violence really is. Saying, "See, it's not so bad. If people just smoked more weed..." is annoying at best and downright harmful at worst. Domestic violence doesn't exist because we don't have enough stoners (or because women "provoke" it); it exists because our society fosters toxic attitudes towards women and then fails to take women's trauma seriously. Giving abusers a bong is not a viable solution to any of that.
Still, from the perspective of potentially legalizing marijuana, this study is very interesting. Most arguments for keeping drugs illegal revolve around both public health concerns (in which pot arguably raises no more red flags than alcohol), and concerns over social ills. And plenty of drugs are linked to unsavory things like higher rates of violent crime and major disruption to families. However, it seems that legalizing weed might not only make crime rates go down, it could also decrease the prevalence of other social problems, at least if this study is any indication.
In other words, pot is not a solution to domestic violence, but studies like this show that trying to keep pot illegal out of concern for social ills might not really hold up as a viable approach.