Regular marijuana smokers suffer more work, social and economic problems at midlife than those who use pot only occasionally or not at all, a decades-long study has found.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, followed nearly 1,000 young people for decades and discovered that those who smoked cannabis four or more days of the week over many years wound up with lower-paying, less-skilled jobs -- and in a lower social class than their parents -- than those who did not smoke pot regularly.
In short, regular and persistent users also "experienced more financial, work-related and relationship difficulties, which worsened as the number of years of cannabis use progressed," according to the research that appeared online March 23 in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.
Although the findings do not prove marijuana actually causes these problems, researchers concluded that smoking marijuana "was not safe for the long-term users" that participated in this particular study.
"Our study found that regular cannabis users experienced downward social mobility and more financial problems, such as troubles with debt and cash flow, than those who did not report such persistent use," said one of the lead researchers, Magdalena Cerdá at the University of California, Davis, in a written release. "Regular long-term users also had more antisocial behaviors at work, such as stealing money or lying to get a job, and experienced more relationship problems, such as intimate partner violence and controlling abuse."
The authors also found that those dependent on pot had more trouble covering the costs of their daily living expenses than those who were alcohol dependent. "Cannabis may be safer than alcohol for your health, but not for your finances," said another lead researcher, Terrie Moffitt from Duke University, in a release.
For the study, funded by groups in New Zealand and the National Institutes of Health, 947 participants completed up to five different adult cannabis assessments between the ages of 18 and 38. These participants were among those involved in the long-term Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study that has been following the development of 1,037 children born in 1972-1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand from birth to age 38. Those in the study represent the complete spectrum of socioeconomic status and health in the general population. They've been examined at various intervals starting at age 3 and continuing to -- most recently -- age 38.
Although researchers said their study should not serve as evidence for or against the legalization of marijuana, its findings are bound to fuel an already contentious debate.
"I think [the study] was slanted, very slanted against cannabis users," Capitol Cannabis Community member Ron Mullins told KCRA in Sacramento. "One of the things in the study was that cannabis users have less money, well, that's because cannabis is so expensive because of prohibition."
In October, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) became the first major presidential candidate to voice support for the legalization of recreational marijuana. His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, said she's not yet ready to support complete legalization, although she does say too many people are imprisoned for marijuana-related offenses.
To view the new study's complete findings, go here.